WELLINGTON – Residents here are grappling with a moral question, one as old as domestication, thanks to the plight of a pair of Canada geese.
The geese have been around the Old Mill Pond for most of the summer. One of the iconic birds has an injured wing and is unable to fly; its partner is unwilling to leave it.
No one knows if they decided to nest here earlier this year or have simply been trapped by circumstance.
Abrams Village resident Art Arsenault learned about the dilemma from another area resident and has been observing the geese regularly. He hasn’t seen any goslings and has been told that it is the female that was injured.
"Sometimes the gander flies, and honks to try and encourage the goose to fly. No way," Arsenault assessed.
Canada geese are known to "mate for life," which would explain why the healthy bird won't abandon the injured. With plenty of grass and other edibles available in the area, they appear robust and otherwise healthy.
Arsenault, like many others, is concerned for the birds, especially as migration time nears.
He has heard lots of talk around the community about the situation, circling the notion of how much humans should intervene in "natural" circumstances.
"Me, I'd like (someone) to heal her. If you had a broken arm, wouldn't you like to be healed?" questioned Arsenault.
He has contacted local animal-rescue expert Candy Gallant, who has been performing such work since having two baby birds brought to her 40 years ago. She no longer is as dedicated to rehabilitation as she once was, but continues to help when she can and has an understanding with provincial environment officials that her goal is safe release rather than domestication of injured wild animals.
"Conservation officials have given their normal 'let nature take its course' advice," Gallant related of her contact with them about the geese.
She is content with that advice, for animals in the forest, when no humans are around to observe, but she can't as easily agree when the animals are “in the public eye".
She indicated that there have been sporadic efforts to capture the animal, or the pair, but they have been unsuccessful.
The goose - usually the larger of the pair, which the injured bird seems to be - can still waddle and swim, and naturally avoids humans who venture too close... though the birds’ caution has been lessened by their proximity to humans.
One plan in the works, by a man experienced with geese, is to net the injured bird, or the pair, and feed through the winter before releasing healed in the spring.
"I have worked with him before, healing birds that have been shot. He has even had wild geese mate with his domestic birds," Gallant said.
Canada geese do retain mates, and Gallant recalled contemporaries who have raised geese that have lived more than 40 years, but she noted that a Canada Goose will soon find a new partner if the mate is lost.
Art Arsenault, however, can’t as easily accept the idea of letting nature prevail.
"They are just like people: they get together for life," he said as he observed the birds.
"It's the first time I have seen any geese land here. If they can't fix (the wing), I hope someone can take them in and care for them over the winter, and return them in the spring."