‘Wild’ goose chase stirring feathers in Seal Cove

This goose has escaped captivity and is calling Seal Solve home, resisting all attempts to capture it. Craig Westcott photo.

By Craig Westcott

Efforts by CBS’s answer to Ace Ventura, Pet Detective is raising a flap among some residents of Seal Cove as she tries to trap a loose goose and return it to its mysteriously unidentified owner.

Lifelong Seal Cove resident Ron Smith is among the locals who have taken a liking to the fowl and finds the attempts to trap it suspicious.

As far as Smith and other neighbours can reckon, the animal is a graylag goose, which would make it a rare visitor to Newfoundland and even North America. Graylags are more commonly found in northern Europe.

“There were two here all winter,” said Smith. “But I only just discovered them in the past month or so. But people have been telling me there have been two here all winter.”

While Seal Cove Pond and Seal Cove River, where the particular goose in question has been residing this winter attract many species of birds and waterfowl, geese are fairly rare.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever seen them here, and I’ve been living here for 63 years,” said Smith.

If you’re familiar with Seal Cove, the goose hangs out in an area called the commons, a grassy bank and viewing area near the old bridge. Like the goose, the scene is as pretty as any postcard. Smith and other residents have been disturbed by the nearly daily appearance of a man and a woman who has been trying to capture the animal with a large net.

“I’ve talked to them about it, and they said they’ve been trying to catch him for the owner, some fellow from the shore who is supposed to own him,” Smith said. “They try just about every single day… I asked them, how come the owner doesn’t come up and try to catch him? The two of them looked at each other and they didn’t know what to say. They threw the net up in the back of the truck and left. That seems odd to me. They told me he (the owner) paid a lot of money for it, and that he escaped.”

The residents have come to adopt the animal.

“There’s always people there feeding him and taking pictures of him,” said Smith. “He’s a star attraction here in Seal Cove. A lot of people like to see him, because he’s a rare goose.”

Smith estimates the bird weighs a good 15 pounds and is as big as a Canada Goose, if not bigger. 

“He’s really, really fat, and the neck is right thick,” he said. “He’s a big bird, boy, really big.”

Smith said his brother e-mailed both the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the provincial Wildlife Division but neither will concern themselves with the people trying to catch the goose. “The council was up here last Friday, Humane Services, and they were talking to them, and they never did anything about it. Plus, the police were over there the other day besides, and they were talking to them. So, I don’t know what’s going on.”

When contacted about the matter, the Town offered a statement. 

“The Town’s Municipal Enforcement Division received a report of a roaming goose last week, which had escaped from a resident’s property,” it read. “It’s important for any pet owner within our community to maintain control of their animals, as roaming pets can pose a risk to public health and safety. We certainly hope the owner is reunited with their goose as quickly as possible; however, we ask the public to please avoid contact with roaming wildlife. “

The Town would not provide the name or address of the owner. However, a couple of calls to a number posted on the bulletin board of nearby Seal Cove Variety did net a woman who admitted she has been trying to trap the goose.

Nalicia Williams said she has been getting “some not-so-nice” attention from the residents. 

Williams said she is trying to catch the animal for a Kelligrews man who has a flock of 30 Toulouse geese. 

That’s a domesticated breed that French farmers have been keeping for centuries. The Toulouse variety of goose looks so much like a graylag you’d probably have to be a specialist to tell the breeds apart.

“He had six get loose over the winter and he hasn’t been able to get them since,” Williams said. “His son did capture one down in Gully Pond and had a resident come over and get very belligerent and made the young fellow release the goose again.”

Williams said she decided to get involved after spotting the goose and realizing it wasn’t wild. So, she posted a note on social media and someone passed along the owner’s name. 

“He gave me permission to trap the goose and so I’ve been attempting to gain trust with the goose, but unfortunately I’ve had a couple of residents that were not pleased with what I was doing,” she said.

Hence the notice she posted at the convenience store, said Williams. 

Williams wouldn’t reveal the owner’s identity or exact location. 

As for herself, Williams said she has been “rescuing” animals for years, everything from dogs and cats to rabbits, squirrels and reptiles – even two snakes, one in the Goulds, another in CBS. “I’ve even rehabilitated wild animals and released them,” she said. “It’s just something that’s always been in my nature to do.”

Williams said the owner keeps the geese as pets and eats their eggs. He shipped them in from out of province and reared them since they were chicks. “I think it’s just a bit of a hobby for him and instead of chickens he likes the geese.”

Catching a goose isn’t easy. Canada geese, for instance, are notorious for being territorial and aggressive. 

“Oh yeah, they can take flight,” Williams said. “They don’t need a long length to run to be able to take flight. It’s not easy. It’s not as simple as catching a cat or dog, setting a trap, and trapping it. I’ve got to gain the goose’s trust, which is going to take an extended period of time. It’s definitely not going to happen overnight… If I could manage to get it to feed out of my hand, I could get a hold of it with my hands, but as it sits right now, it’s nervous because I’ve had people come by, even when I was just throwing some feed down for it, and run it back off into the water. So, its trust is kind of broken again.”

Williams said if the net doesn’t work, she has another option.

“We’re going to replicate the houses that the owner has – they’re almost like dog houses that they’ll go into to nest and lay eggs,” she said. “We’ll fill it with hay and situate it down by the water in hopes she will go into it. And if she goes into it to lay an egg, hopefully, we’ll be there to pull a string and shut the door.”

Williams said the owner has confirmed it is a female.

“Even with (my) signs posted, there are people continuing to feed the goose even though I have stated not to feed the goose as per direction from the RNC, the CBS municipality, the CBS Humane Services, Wildlife, the whole nine yards have told me to post notes around, and so I did and people are still feeding the goose… I’ve had people come over and purposely interfere with trapping efforts. Because at the beginning I was trying to trap her. We had the RNC speak to one person already about that… But when I have people continuously going over and dumping loaves of bread down and feeding her, she’s not hungry when I go by to feed her to see if I can get her close enough to attempt a trap. I need her good and hungry to come to me. I just got permission from the Town of CBS yesterday to make physical picket signs to put up down there to tell people to stop interfering by feeding her, or crowding the area, or whatnot.”

Williams said she understands the residents may find her behaviour unusual.

“It sucks for the residents in the area if I do catch her,” she conceded. “Because it is a beautiful bird to be looking at or even to go over and throw some feed down for her. I understand their point of view too, but she doesn’t belong there and unfortunately, if she starts laying a clutch of eggs and she goes broody and wanting to hatch them out – which she won’t (be able to do) because her eggs won’t be fertile – if a kid steps too close to her, the kid’s going to get tore up. So, it’s also a hazard having her there as well.”

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