Geese stand their ground, a cautionary tale

These Canada geese along the Ottawa River were more used to intrusive humans.  Photo: Lucy Martin

These Canada geese along the Ottawa River seem somewhat resigned to intrusive humans. Photo: Lucy Martin

This is the time of year when all manner of critters are out and about with their offspring. And most of us just go “Aww!” when the oh-so-cute babies go by. But it bears remembering that parents can be very protective. Wild or domesticated, many animals are willing – and surprisingly able – to take defensive measures.

That point was recently driven home for Ottawa cyclist Kerry Suman, who was hospitalized for a concussion, fractured cheekbone, loose teeth and lacerations after a June 10th encounter with some Canada geese on a trail between Stittsville and Carleton Place.

According to the CBC, Suman saw a cluster of adults and babies crossing ahead of her. She thought she was gliding by at a safe distance. At least one goose disagreed:

“What I remember is the goose giving me the evil eye and then the goose wrapping its wings around my head, and I can’t see and I hear myself screaming,” she said.

The next thing Surman remembered was that she was lying on the ground and having difficulty getting up.

This got a small flurry of media attention in Ottawa, including a video report from CTV.

The majority of Surman’s injuries likely resulted from falling off a moving bike. And, for sure, that can really mess you up. But it’s worth remembering that wild things have not been raised on Disney movies where animals burst into song and frolic with us like pets.

In follow-up coverage, CBC radio’s Stu Mills spoke with birder Jeff Skevington about the topic. (I hesitate to call the topic animal attacks, because most animals don’t really want to mix it up with humans. They are usually doing their own version of “Hey, leave my family alone!”)

Skevington said birds can do more damage then one might expect: “They’re very strong – a lot of the big water fowl are. Mute swans are even stronger. It’s surprising, I mean, they have hollow bones, they’re very light, for flying. And yet they can break a bone, if they hit you right.”

Skevington says that while such encounters are rare this is the more dangerous time for that possibility, when parents are invested in protecting their young.

One last thing: anyone who thinks geese don’t deserve caution hasn’t met them up close and personal. Even domesticated geese have a pinching bite hat’s hard to ignore, for starters. Indeed, geese have a long history as being a great security force - they are territorial, formidable and can’t be bribed!

I’m sure many readers have their own stories of animal attacks, wild or otherwise. There are natural consequences for getting too close.

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