KELOWNA – Rescuing a wild animal you think is injured or abandoned is most likely going to be its death sentence.
That’s the message a conservation officer who had to confiscate a wild Canada goose from a Lake Country teen last weekend is desperately trying to get out.
“It’s very frustrating,” Ken Owens says. “Every spring, whether it be the fawning season or when the goslings are out, people at times will come across what they believe is injured or orphaned wildlife. Most of the time, they are not.”
A public complaint brought Owens to the home of 17-year-old Oliver Klassen the evening of Sunday, July 30. Klassen admits to raising the goose ever since his aunt found the young bird in the middle of a highway in May.
“He just followed me around,” he says. “We used to take him to the park and I’d walk around and he’d follow me and look at the water. When he was small we gave him baths in the sink and we’d put grass and things in there for him to eat.”
He named him Elliot and learned everything he could about Canadian geese. But that didn’t stop local Conservation Officers from confiscating Elliot Sunday night and giving Klassen a $230 fine for possession of a migratory bird.
Klassen says the goose was never confined but chose to stay in his yard.
‘When he was small he slept in this big chicken run so raccoons wouldn’t get him. Once he was able to fly he just stayed in the yard. He was free to go whenever he wanted.”
Owns says because Canada geese imprint on whatever is around them growing up, Elliot didn’t know he was a goose anymore. This severely impairs his chance at a normal life.
“Canada geese especially, imprint on humans very quickly,” Owens says. “If it’s raised by a human that gosling thinks it’s human.”
The best thing to have done in that situation, Owens says, is remove the bird from the highway to somewhere safe and call the RAPP hotline.
“When our wildlife rehabilitators raise these goslings, they limit human contact to nothing. They are fed with puppets that resemble Canada geese so imprinting doesn’t happen."
He says over the 27 years he has worked for the Conservation Service of B.C. he has seen several people try to raise wild geese. He calls it ‘misguided.”
A common issue he sees is called ‘angel wing’, which is a deformation of wing joints caused by too much protein and sugar in the diet. Owens says Elliot showed no signs of angel wing and was released into the wild.
“The survival rate is probably pretty low,” he says. “We see it every year here in the Okanagan. They’re killing the gosling with kindness.”
He says while stories like Elliot’s tug at the heart strings, the message needs to be heard.
“Do not pick it up, monitor it for 24 hours then if you still legitimately think it's orphaned call our RAPP line,” he says. “We’re not the big bad wolf, we’re here to protect birds and wildlife, that’s our primary focus.”
If an orphaned or injured wild animal is found by the public, the first step is to notify the Conservation Officer Service/Wildlife Branch staff through the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) website or toll-free line 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP).
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