Wallace KaufmanWallace Kaufman
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    A recent newsletter ended with an item titled, “PLEASE DON’T FEED THE GEESE AND GOSLINGS IN THE COVE”. It included a warning from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, “If you care for waterfowl, here’s what you can do to help them retain their “wildness” and maintain their wellbeing: STOP FEEDING THEM.” I’ll explain as a science writer and the person who befriended our family of geese why this is both without good science and why it doesn’t apply to Little Wale Cove.

    I have researched this question in the past about birds I’ve fed by hand and about home bird feeders. What’s common sense is that in cities and suburbs and popular parks where hundreds or thousands of people feed ducks and geese often in small ponds or sluggish rivers, birds can come to rely on bread and waters can be polluted.

    Fish and Wildlife raises the possibility that feeding waterbirds bread can lead to a bone deformation called Angel Wing. I searched for any experimental or field science that validates this and found none. I did find a study that notes Angel Wing appears in many birds including pelicans and cormorants. Have we seen anyone feeding cormorants and pelicans bread? Some of the largest wildlife reserves for migrating water birds allow them to feed on corn and other grains. That practice has increased the numbers of birds.

    Certainly if someone has good experimental or observational science that indicates feeding one family of geese here will harm them, let’s give it serious consideration.

    Only this morning one of my neighbors in LWC sternly rebuked me for feeding the geese, saying ODF said it should be prohibited. I asked if she had read the science I sent to her and a few interested friends. No she hadn’t. But, she said, feeding them domesticated them and they should be wild.

    I understand that reasoning and have used it myself in other instances with different circumstances. This morning’s setting was ironic. We were cleaning up all the wildness on the beaches around the Cove where many birds find food and even shelter. The cleanup devastated the habitats of many wild invertebrates. I’m okay with that, but isn’t it ironic that we have now domesticated the beach, but the goose family that lives here I’m told should be wild.

    I have observed this family all spring. While the dame (female) was on the nest for weeks, I won the trust of the gander. Within a week of hatching on Mothers’ Day the six goslings and their dame also came to trust me. They also trust a number of birds and other animals. Why is trusting a human suddenly losing wildness? Nor do they rely on what little bread (with grains) that I feed them. Even during feeding they often take a break to add grasses and seaweeds and other plant material they find in the water. Almost all day and night they are on the water, among the mussels and seaweeds or in the plant life surrounding the Cove.

    Let’s add that I’ve seen numerous young people from toddlers to teens enjoy watching our geese close up. I’ve given a few the opportunity to hand feed the geese and goslings. Their eyes (the human eyes) light up, and they have a new interest in wildlife. How bad is that for wildlife?