Now there are two. That is the number of geese left on the pond outside our back deck on the Ashton Hills Golf Course. There may be geese elsewhere on the course, but now we just see one pair. During the past two springs we have seen several dozen geese on that pond.
It has been such a pleasure to watch these geese come and go. They have been a joy to observe. Indeed, in their time in flight and on the pond, they are majestic birds to observe.
The pair that remains may be the most famous geese in the world. They have made the news on television, their story shared through the Associated Press and been on the front page of this very newspaper. The Ashton Hills Golf Club reported that it had tried many ways to reduce the number of geese on their course. Golf course staff has been very successful in reducing that number on at least one of the larger ponds. Now there only remains one pair.
The issue of the geese got everyone’s attention when the golf course went to the Covington City Council for permission to shoot some of the geese. By admission of golf course ownership, the geese had been a part of their course for more than 20 years. But they had reached the end of their proverbial rope and went to the city to get permission to shoot the geese. They had to have permission since the majority of the course falls within the city limits. Permission was granted. But for now it’s not the end of the story.
When the news broke on the planned hunt, it was discovered that there was possibly another solution to removing the geese. The publicity in social media as well as the press and television led to the USDA offering an additional way. It involved catching the geese and clipping their flight feathers. This would be done in late June or early July, after the molting season. They would be taken at least 100 miles away before being released. The idea is that by the time their feathers grow back they will be at “home” in their new place.
The golf club has agreed to this attempt if funds can be raised to pay for this process and repair the damage to the course by the geese during the wait for the proper time to try this relocation. The estimated cost is $1,500 for catching, clipping the birds, and their relocation. I can only assume there are more than the two I see on the pond in our back yard — though I could not find any on the next pond upstream from the one with two geese.
A nearby neighbor has started a Go Fund Me account that in the first weekend got 47 responses giving $1,720. Now this response is something we need publicity about. Any excess funds will go the local human society. You can be a part of this effort by going to gofundme.com/vwvtbvvh.
I would like to say to the geese, which spend as much time in our yard as they do the course, thanks for the memories. In our first spring, we saw one of the among- 30-or-so geese was missing a leg. The amazing part was how he or she had adapted and would move about on land in a hoping motion. In the water — common sense would say the goose would move like he or she was paddling with one paddle and would go in a circle. But not the little one-legged goose, he went straight when he was in the water. The only sad part was his fellow geese were too much like many of us. They didn’t want to be with one who is different.
Then last year, on the morning of Mother’s Day a new family swam proudly up the middle of the pond. This appears to be the family that is featured on the Go Fund Me appeal. They spent as much time in our yard as on the course. It was fascinating watching the parents taking care of their new little family. It was also fun to watch them grow until they were ready to be on their own.
I am not sure whether the one remaining pair is the parents of last year’s new family. I honestly can’t tell on goose from another. But I am told that once a pair has become a pair, they stay faithful to their partner for life.
I don’t know how much damage has been done to the course throughout the years. I do know some of the reports about the geese are exaggerated. For example when we have had a dozen so in our yard, I could be out in the yard and not one time did any of the visiting geese show any hostility. I am told that if you threatened their nesting area they can become very testy.
As I write this column, I am looking out the window at our one remaining pair. I wish them safe journey and hope that they will not be shot. I will be looking to the sky in the future in hopes that more geese will come our way. Whether in the spring or fall as they migrate, I hope a few will stop by the pond for a while so again we can be blessed by their presence.
B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.