A Gaggle of Greasy Geese at Greenwood
by Laura Burfield, Greenwood Volunteer
You may have heard about the terrible incident in which an unidentified pollutant contaminated a Lakewood pond and subsequently killed or injured many of the waterfowl who call that pond their home. We presently have eight geese at Greenwood who were found covered in this oily, unknown substance which rendered them unable to fly and vulnerable to illness, injury, and attack from predators. These injured individuals were rescued by heroic Lakewood Animal Control officers and volunteers from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and transported to Greenwood. These greasy geese are now in our care and in various stages of rehabilitation and recovery.
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 eight 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 will be 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. At the time of this writing, five of our no-longer-greasy-geese are in the outdoor enclosure and doing very well. Our other three still-somewhat-greasy-geese patients are also doing just fine but remain inside for now as they were at the contaminated pond a little longer than the others. Geese can be very hard to catch–hence the expression “to be on a wild goose chase!”
You can help these geese and other Greenwood patients by making a monetary donation, sponsoring an animal, purchasing wish list supplies, or volunteering. 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.