Respect for wildlife sorely lacking in most instances
A recent color “wildlife” photo on the front page of a regional newspaper jumped out at me immediately, striking me as wrong in so many ways that I did not know where to begin getting grumpy.
It pictured a smiling little 7-year-old-girl, hunched-over with some sort of food item in her outstretched hand and her mother – apparently, shown just waist down – standing by, attempting to feed a Canada goose on a sunny spring day. Said goose had its head lowered and neck stretched and beak slightly parted. The captions underneath the photo went on to describe how the lovely little urchin was communing with the goose, etcetera, etcetera.
This “aw-how-cute” offering of typical Disneyesque tripe, sadly, is commonly accepted and widely publicized across all media formats. These are presented unquestioningly as if they are correct and are swallowed by the public so readily as to not raise an eyebrow. My sincere hope is that outdoors folks know better, and try to educate their fellow citizens better.
The featured goose was expressing an aggressive posture, totally misread by both the ignorant individuals involved as well as the newspaper photographer, and ultimately by the editors who used the photo and wrote the naïve cutlines.
In fact, the little girl at a minimum was in danger of being nipped or bitten by the harassed goose, however unknowingly. And she could have been in danger of taking a leg-breaking wing-beating if the goose had had enough of her chaperoned intrusion to flat-out attack.
Yes, a goose-bite can draw blood. Ouch. I know from personal experience while assisting on professional wildlife goose-banding operations. And the wings of a mature Canada goose, especially those of a gander with its big, knobby forewing joints, are capable of breaking a human thigh bone, or femur, the largest, strongest bone in the body.
But these realities are lost in the la-la land of public wildlife ignorance. It is a public education failure, among others. Thank you Walt, and other petting-zoo aficionados.
Aside: Birds and fishes do not birth “babies.” They hatch them, respectively, from eggs, though by quite different pathways. Birds have hatchlings then juveniles, fish have fry and then fingerlings. Mammals have young that might be called babies, though I find the term excessively anthropomorphic and disrespectful of the animals in question. Deer, for example, birth fawns, not babies. We need to start getting this right, truly respecting animals. Then maybe we will conserve them well.
White-tailed deer are not Bambi. Close approaches with an ignorant “kiddieland” mindset can elicit a lashing-out of forelegs that can wound seriously. Ask a deer hunter who has been thrashed by the legs of a wounded animal that he quite carelessly had thought was dead. And close approaches to a rutting buck can be fatal. I had a late outdoors writing acquaintance who could testify to that, were he alive. He ended up dying after being gored by a penned rutting buck that he was trying to photograph.
The sad part of this is that we all should know better. The facts are out there; this is not rocket science. Sadly, we have become mostly urban dwellers isolated and remote from nature and its truths, our heads instead filled with errant and sometimes dangerous and silly fantasies. Well-meant intentions do not justify foolish behavior, no matter how harmlessly or thoughtlessly it is presented.
Yes, love and enjoy wildlife in whatever prudent way you wish. Enjoy birds through binoculars, or over the bead of a shotgun barrel (gamebirds, of course, in season). Or whatever. Just use your head…it should be more than a hatrack.
(Note: The Ohio Department of Natural Resources offers an excellent primer on a related topic, the truth about what to do with injured or orphaned wildlife. It is especially appropriate this time of year. Just go online and google “ODNR wildlife orphans.”)