A Gaggle of Greasy Geese at Greenwood
by Laura Burfield, Greenwood Volunteer
You may have heard about the terrible incident in which illegally dumped cooking waste contaminated a Lakewood pond and subsequently killed or injured many of the waterfowl who call that pond their home. Some of these injured individuals, who were covered in this oily substance rendering them unable to fly and vulnerable to illness, injury, and attack from predators, had been rescued by heroic Lakewood Animal Control officers, USFWS personnel, and volunteers from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and transported to Greenwood. We are happy to report that Greenwood successfully cared for and rehabilitated nine geese from this pond and has released them back into their wild homes. Watch a video here of these happy wild ones at their release!
It was a long, hard journey from a toxic, oily pond and compromised health to full rehabilitation and release for each of these geese. So what happens to a greasy goose when she arrives at Greenwood? Our rehabilitators’ first course of care is to give her an examination and treat for any injuries. Some of our geese from the Lakewood pond have had face or neck injuries which may have come from predator attacks since their primary defense of flying was compromised. Next, she is given many baths over multiple days to wash off all the pollutant. Dawn dish soap is the cleansing agent of choice for washing the geese because it usually washes off most everything and is a best guess when dealing with an unknown substance. This bathing process is a tricky business as geese are strong birds with forceful wings and beaks and don’t take too cooperatively to being bathed by people. It takes at least two humans, four rubber boots, and one shower stall to give a goose a bath! Watch here to see rehabbers Lea and Amanda giving one of our goose patients a gentle bath.
Washing with all this soap, however, strips all the natural oils from her beautiful feathers. The majority of birds possess a uropygial gland, or preen gland, located at the base of the tail which produces waterproofing oils. After the rehabilitators determine that all that yucky pollutant is gone, the goose is given lots of time in her warm, indoor enclosure to work on replenishing those oils through a process calling preening. She will take oil from this part of her tail with her beak and work to redistribute it throughout her feathers in order to restore their waterproofing ability, strength, and sheen.
After she’s cleaned, preened, and mended, she moves to an outdoor enclosure where she has a small pool, plenty of room for brief flights and stretching her wings, and the company of our other waterfowl patients. Greenwood rehabbers continue to monitor the progress of her health as well as observe her flight to be sure wings and feathers are strong once again. When all is well, she is ready for release.
The care that was given to these geese, and the care given to all Greenwood patients, is made possible almost entirely by voluntary contributions made by folks just like you. By making a monetary donation, sponsoring an animal, purchasing wish list supplies, or volunteering, your generosity turns a greasy, sick goose into a healthy, thriving animal that can continue to live her life in the wild. This greasy geese tale reminds us of the responsibility we each carry to protect our clean water and defend healthy habitats for our wild neighbors. From balconies to backyards, you can help create sanctuary spaces for wildlife. Please visit HSUS’s Urban Wildlife Sanctuary Program for more information.