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Agency addresses geese rescue gone wrong

Critics: Wildlife group's taking of goslings resulted in death of mom

  • Agency-addresses-rescue-gone-wrong-3

    Logan Blockway, 11, and his mother, Hanna Blockway, were just two people to notice the goose atop her nest near the post office door.

    The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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  • Agency-addresses-rescue-gone-wrong-2

    Laura Zitzelberger, the operations director of Nature's Nursery, holds one of Sally's offspring that was removed from the family nest in what Ms. Zitzelberger says was a well-intentioned intervention.

    The Blade/Andy Morrison
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  • Agency-addresses-rescue-gone-wrong

    Harry, Sally, and goslings in happier times near the South Toledo Post Office, before the crash that killed Sally.

    Photo:ToledoBlade

Agency-addresses-rescue-gone-wrong

Harry, Sally, and goslings in happier times near the South Toledo Post Office, before the crash that killed Sally.

Photo:ToledoBlade Enlarge

Just hours before Mother's Day, Sally was killed by a motorist near a South Toledo post office as the new mom searched for her family.

Three goslings and two unhatched eggs were taken from her and Harry, her mate, in a well-intended rescue that went terribly wrong.

Postal workers, who watched for three weeks as Sally incubated eggs in a planter near the post office's front door, are among those mourning the loss. Saddened too are postal patrons who had taken the Canada geese under their wings -- tossing cracked corn near the nest, filling water dishes.

Some folks are furious about the outcome, pointing fingers of blame at Nature's Nursery Center for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation Education, based near Whitehouse.

Laura Zitzelberger, operations director for Nature's Nursery, said it was a no-win situation. Initially, the center declined to intervene, but when a call came from the post office late last week asking for a safety check on the geese, a volunteer was dispatched and found goslings bustling about the busy parking lot.

The volunteer scooped up the goslings, took two eggs from Sally's nest, and put them in a box. She walked them and their parents across South Detroit Avenue to a pond. Plans to leave the family there went afoul when territorial geese got rowdy and threatened the newcomers.

The volunteer decided to take the goslings and eggs to Nature's Nursery, leaving Harry and Sally behind.

Agency-addresses-rescue-gone-wrong-2

Laura Zitzelberger, the operations director of Nature's Nursery, holds one of Sally's offspring that was removed from the family nest in what Ms. Zitzelberger says was a well-intentioned intervention.

The Blade/Andy Morrison
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Bothered and bewildered, the geese repeatedly trekked across the busy street. From the pond to the post office they went. Horns honked. Tires screeched. Harry honked back. Some say Harry was acting aggressively with good reason because he and Sally couldn't find their family.

On Saturday, when postal workers reported to work, Sally was there in the grass. Near the street. Dead.

"We were all crying," said one worker. "We asked them not to move the babies. They did anyway, and it cost the mother her life."

The center, which provides medical care to injured and orphaned wild animals, holds state and federal licenses that allow it to intervene when necessary, said Mrs. Zitzelberger, noting she can't say for certain the geese intervention was handled the best way possible. "I can't say it was wrong, but it was not cut and dried as we would have liked," she said. "Normally, it is not our policy to get involved. We really are wishing we hadn't."

Possibly, if the center had not intervened, the outcome could have been worse, she said. The entire family could have been killed as it tried to dodge traffic on South Detroit.

This time of the year, Nature's Nursery is swamped with calls from area residents fretting over wildlife, such as baby critters in what appear to be abandoned nests. About 100 calls a day are coming in; by the end of May, the number will swell to 200 a day. Last Sunday, the center took in 32 wild animals from the public. It recently placed its 100th wild bunny into foster care.

It's getting crowded in the center's closet where Harry and Sally's goslings live. They share space with ducklings and older goslings, including one rescued after its mother rejected it because of a deformed foot. Nature's Nursery fashioned a pink platform shoe to aid the gosling; after awhile, it was fine.

"We have volunteers and staff who put so many hours into helping animals," Mrs. Zitzelberger said. "We are not going to say we're infallible. We try to do the right thing. It is a little disheartening that we are getting attacked."

Agency-addresses-rescue-gone-wrong-3

Logan Blockway, 11, and his mother, Hanna Blockway, were just two people to notice the goose atop her nest near the post office door.

The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Nature's Nursery "made the best of a bad situation," said Scott Butterworth, wildlife management supervisor for Ohio Wildlife District 2. "The geese picked a terrible place to nest and that kind of started things. Nature's Nursery does a great job of rehabilitating wildlife to get animals back into the wild.

"They wouldn't do anything to jeopardize a wild animal."

He reminds area residents that most wild animals are "very good parents but are not human parents." That means wild animal parents don't hover about at all times. Mothers sometimes leave their nests, but typically don't abandon their babies. "The best thing for people to do is leave nests alone and let nature take its course."

On this spring day, 88-year-old Norm Hurlburt of South Toledo stops by the post office where downy feathers flutter in Sally's otherwise empty nest. "I only came today to check on the geese," he said. "I saw them about a week ago and wanted to see how much the babies have grown."

When told what happened, he's visibly shaken.

"Oh, no," he said, tears in his voice. "Oh, my. I thought ... oh. I'm so sorry. So sorry."

People point across South Detroit to the pond, to a Canada goose wandering about.

It's Harry, they say. All alone ... and heartbroken.

Contact Janet Romaker at: jromaker@theblade.com or 419-724-6006.

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