Five Goslings Meet Tragic End

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Of the six goslings hatched in the courtyard, only one survived. Photo by Bradford Douglas.

On May 26th, BHS students returned from the long weekend to find six fluffy green-gray baby birds waddling about in the courtyard. These were the proud offspring of the Canada goose whom students have come to know as Natasha.

This is the second consecutive year Natasha has nested in the courtyard, seeking the benefits of shelter, food and pond water. Similarly, two mallards settled down in the 1990’s.

This is probably the same goose who appeared last year.

“If Natasha were tagged, we would know for sure,” Science teacher Joe Burwell wrote in an email.

“The adults leave periodically to forage, but the young have to eat what they can find—grass, algae, seeds,” Burwell wrote. “There is no danger of predators such as coyotes or hawks. Last year, there were five baby geese.”

According WKYC, Ohio’s Canada geese population has been steadily increasing. In fact, this number has doubled over the past two decades, reaching a height of 130,000 this year and it is expected to keep growing at even a faster rate. The abundance of water and grass as well as the lack of natural predators make ideal conditions for geese, some of which have stopped migrating out of Ohio.

Soon after the goose settled down with her babies, signs were put up to prevent students from tapping on the glass.

“[I am] not sure who put up the signs, but the instruction to not tap is appropriate,” Burwell wrote. “Ohio law prohibits the harassment of wildlife, including Canada geese, a species that, while many consider them pests, enjoys protected status.”

This morning, Burwell and intervention specialist Mark Gray removed the surviving gosling from the courtyard. It happily followed Natasha away.”

However, in a sudden turn of events, just one week later, the same BHS students came back to find Natasha and her goslings gone.

Burwell was planning to move the baby geese out of the courtyard this Monday or Tuesday after school. His prediction was that the goslings would walk around the school and settle down next to the pond by the pool, which contains greater resources in terms of food and water.

However, due to unknown causes, five of the six baby goslings perished. Burwell explained that the cause of death may have been the rain or the lack of sufficient food in the courtyard.

“I can’t believed they died,” said sophomore Alex Remer. “They were so cute and fun to watch.”

“Yeah, it’s sad that they died,” agreed freshman Jacqueline Joo. “I was looking forward to watching them grow.

This morning, Burwell and intervention specialist Mark Gray removed the surviving gosling from the courtyard. It happily followed Natasha away.

“They’re just fascinating to watch up close,” Burwell wrote.

Despite the tragic end of five of Natasha’s goslings, there is hope for a new nest of baby goslings to settle down in the courtyard next year with their mother.

“I think is is likely [that Natasha will settle down in the courtyard again],” Burwell agreed. “Their programming is pretty simple: they imprint on places, and many geese never even travel or migrate far away throughout the year. As long as they find open water, they can survive year around.”

“In fact, it’s interesting that Natasha the mama goose is so neurotic about her surroundings but still builds her nest in that location,” Burwell concluded. “It’s as if her internal programming is incapable of changing its instruction/direction.”