This is an article which Wendy Strathearn wrote for the ‘Round the Ridges’ publication
I am ‘straying’ a little from a purely permaculture theme in my article this month, but threads of permaculture are never far from finding a solution to a problem most rural dwellers have suffered, from time to time, through no fault of their own.
Firstly, my recent experience. My beautiful geese have for the past 8 months procreated and from 4 adults came 6 goslings, each of which made it to 20 weeks, with each week threatened by osprey, and a myriad of other birds of prey. They spent every evening on the lakes knowing that they were protected, and could protect each other from any four-legged predators.
Approximately 4 weeks ago the geese were very hesitant about going onto the lake at night, so I kindly shepherded them down to the lake each night on dark. Finally, one night I persuaded them onto the lake, and then on my return to the house, I checked from the deck, how they were on the water, only to find they were making there way back up toward the house away from the lakes. I then decided that, that was their decision so it wasn’t for me to interfere. They obviously had a reason. From that night on they camped on the ground. Which evidently made them a lot more vulnerable.
On Thursday night, 17th Feb., or rather around 4.45am on Friday morning, there was a commotion. From my bedroom window I saw that the geese were all on the lakes. I was surprised to see them there and knew immediately, there must be something awry. My binoculars, confirmed that I now had 4 adults and 5 goslings. I had lost one of the goslings. The geese remained on the lake until late Saturday afternoon when they apparently decided, possibly from hunger, and very soaked, webbed feet and lots of trauma, to walk up to the house. One adult female, Gwendoline, had a very bad limp, but this time her left leg (she had previously had a limp on her right leg, but had recovered) which was so excruciatingly painful that she could hardly walk without showing enormous pain. I fed her and gave her water and decided that the only safe place for them was the laundry in the bunker. I didn’t have a secure pen for them. They were free rangers. I coaxed them into the laundry with some grain and carried Gwendoline in to be with them.
A few minutes later I heard a goose calling from the lake, somehow he/she, another gosling, missed the mass walk to the house and there was nothing I could to do to console or save him/her. Sadly he was on the lake, alone. I haven’t seen him since.
The following morning I found, Gwendoline, hadn’t made it through the night. So now I have 3 adults and 4 goslings. A secure pen is well on its way to being completed, in the mean time, they spend every night in the bunker laundry.
Whilst I didn’t see a dog, I assume that a dog or dogs, had been circling the lakes at night and perhaps swimming out to where the geese were. Any wonder they decided the lake wasn’t where they felt safe at night any longer.
I don’t hold any direct hatred for the dogs, they were doing what dogs, left, abandoned, or dumped, will do for food. I can’t blame them for that, however, when I think about this situation with what has been termed ‘wild dogs’, I can’t help but understand that we don’t have a ‘wild dog’ problem; we have a ‘people’ problem. Fair enough, there are dingoes out there and sadly foxes and we must deal with them in the only way we can. I would really love to figure out how some people give themselves permission to abandon, dump, or neglect their dogs and cats causing every other property owner heartache.
Is it that cumbersome to give up your dogs/cats by taking them to animal rescue such as RSPCA? How much better these people could feel by giving their animal another chance at being with a caring family? I hope I have opened up some ‘food for thought’ around this issue and perhaps we can find a solution, if we look for a solution, rather than simply taking it on the chin and/or putting out baits.
Since writing this article, on the 26th Feb, my geese have endured another ‘wild dog’ attack, at 6.15am on Friday 3rd March. I had let them out of their now completed ‘secure’ pen a little after 6am. To me, it was daylight, they were fine, and then ‘the commotion’ again, the adult geese had taken to the air and the 4 goslings took to the lake. The dog, which I saw this time, missed his target but not without causing great injury to Mrs Knobby Head, who is the mother of the 6 goslings, as she missed seeing a fence and flew into it resulting in enough impact to break her wing. They all made their way to the lake, whilst I chased the dog. Mrs. Knobby Head has remained on the lake since then and has now moved into the first lake. I am not able to bring her out, as she is so fearful she swims away when I approach even with an offer of food. The rest of the gaggle talks to her over the divide between the lakes and occasionally climb over and visit with her. I have no way of rescuing her, so my big hope is that she recovers enough to feel strong enough to come off the lake, but then, is that is my ‘people’ hope, and maybe she is doing what nature requires her to do and what is instinctual, and maybe people are superfluous to that.
The ‘wild dog’ impact on animals is enormous and the impact on animal owners is enormous, and I for one, am ready to lobby council, talk to community, till my mouth is dry, to find a prevention solution, because behavior will never change just because we are baiting, abandoned, dumped, straying, neglected, ‘not penned up at night’, ‘left to roam whilst owners are at work’ domesticated dogs & cats.