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Workers who rescued goose return injured bird home

By JOSEPH P. SMITH • GANNETT NEW JERSEY • May 31, 2009

MILLVILLE — A down-on-his-luck goose is back enjoying the Union Lake beachfront today after some serious surgery and almost four weeks in rehabilitation in Delaware.

Three Cumberland County Improvement Authority workers who took the goose under their wing last month shooed it back to its old wild life Friday morning.

"We figure it probably came from the general area," Steve Clarke said. "I didn't want to release it near Sharp Street, in case it landed in the road because it was weak."

Clarke, chief of environmental investigations for the authority, John Wahl and James Cody said their goodbyes together.

The goose, however, was reluctant to part. It kept following its benefactors.

"I would run away and the bird would fly parallel to me, and when I stopped it would land next to me," Clarke laughed.

Finally, they played hide and seek.

"We hid behind a tree," Clarke said. "Then, we walked and hid behind another tree. He started honking like he was calling. Then we made our escape."

The interstate saga started early April 30 at the Sharp and Main streets Wawa with a limping goose showing up at the entrance. The location provoked some laughs, since a flying goose is the corporation's logo.

The goose had suffered a fracture to his left foot, most likely from being struck. The fracture was open and infected to the point some bone had died.

"It's a significant injury for an animal of that species," Barnsboro resident and animal rehabilitator Vicki Schmidt said Friday.

Geese need to run to get the momentum to fly. A bad foot means they can't do that and, for a wild fowl, that can be a death sentence.

Wawa workers asked police for help, but police said it was outside their expertise. New Jersey's Fish and Game office was working on it when Clarke called the SPCA, which ultimately got hold of Schmidt.

Clarke tossed a raincoat over the bird, put it on his lap and let Cody drive him to the SPCA, where Schmidt took the bird.

Schmidt only works with mammals, but she does transport work for Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research, a nonprofit conservation group in Newark, Del.

Its staff veterinarians performed the surgery and did the rehabilitation. The bird was cleared Thursday for release back into the wild.

Clarke said the authority's director, Steve Wymbs, approved of the intervention. "He recognizes this is the way his employees think," he said.

Clarke said it's a "short bridge" from their regular work to helping an animal.

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