By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
A week and a half after the famous Fauntleroy white geese were relocated to Vashon Island, the rescue group that is now housing them says they “are both doing great.”
We promised to follow up on our original September 9th report of their sudden removal, and in keeping that promise, have learned more about how that unfolded, and about how they had come to live in Fauntleroy in the first place.
We have communicated by e-mail with the rescue group, BaaHaus, and Seattle Parks, and have spoken by phone with the man who says he is the person who originally brought geese to the Fauntleroy shore and is sad that they are gone.
First, BaaHaus has answered questions we had originally sent a week ago; after several days, we learned that the e-mail had bounced, so we re-sent it; BaaHaus’s spokesperson had promised us in our original phone conversation that she would be happy to answer more questions that way. She asked to remain anonymous, though, saying that BaaHaus has received threats because of the goose relocation.
We asked for details of what led them to take the geese:
“BaaHaus received several phone calls and emails from a number of concerned West Seattle residents who had seen the geese harassed and noted their dwindling numbers. These park-goers said they had also contacted Seattle Animal Control and the Seattle Parks Department. We told them that we would not come and get the geese, but if they were able to capture them, or if Seattle Animal Control captured them and turned them over to Seattle Animal Shelter we would make room for them at our sanctuary. The calls and emails continued over the course of a month. …
“The Good Samaritans who picked up the geese are not affiliated with BaaHaus, though they have volunteered here in the past (as well as at other animal-related organizations in the region). We were very grateful to have their help because (1) they have experience capturing animals, (2) they know domestic geese from wild geese, and (3) we knew they would come prepared to make the transfer as swift, gentle, and safe for the geese as possible. They also know the rules around animal rescue and notified Seattle Animal Shelter of the location from which the geese were removed and the location where they were put into a safe, secure, comfortable quarantine. By the volunteers’ accounts, the capture went well and the geese were unharmed. I will verify that when they reached BaaHaus they were in good shape, not particularly stressed, and mostly curious about the geese talking to them through the fence. They were also very hungry and dug into the food we had prepared for them.”
(BaaHaus had told us in our initial conversation hours after the capture that they already have about 30 geese on their Vashon Island compound.)
The BaaHaus spokesperson continued, “We really love geese, so we understand that people are feeling the loss of contact with these two lovely individuals. We hope that people who care about the geese will take comfort in knowing that they will be well cared for and will have an excellent quality of life at BaaHaus — not just food, veterinary care, and shelter, but attention to their individual needs and also to their happiness for the rest of their lives. We have decades of experience working with domestic geese and a variety of other farm animals. We have been a 501c3 non-profit since 1997.”
It’s still not a black-and-white matter of whether removing these geese from the park was legal. The Parks Department told us last week that they were looking up the police report that was filed at the time of the removal, and had reported the incident to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Parks spokesperson Dewey Potter said this section of the Parks Code “might apply”:
18.12.100 – Capturing or striking animals prohibited.
Except for fishing and shellfishing in areas authorized by the Superintendent and subject to rules promulgated by the Washington State Game Commission, it is unlawful in any park in any manner to attempt to capture, tease, annoy, disturb, or strike any animal with any stick, weapon or other device or thing or throw or otherwise propel any missile or other object at or in the vicinity of any such animal.
Meantime, BaaHaus contends the geese were domestic animals that were “dumped.”
The man who says he is responsible for their presence here – dating back more than 20 years – tells a more-nuanced story.
He, like the BaaHaus rep, asked not to be identified, with this remaining a touchy topic. But he sought us out to tell the geese’s backstory, which we had never heard.
He was raising geese at his home not far from the park, he said, while observing that waterfowl in the area had been on the decline. He said he talked to waterfront residents near the ferry dock to ask if they would have a problem if he “relocated” some there. “Nobody had a problem with it,” he said, so that’s what he did.
This, he said, was 22 years ago – he originally brought one pair of geese and four goslings to the beach.
“These were grays,” he said, “this particular breed comes in gray or white.”
Six months later, he “found a huge white goose somebody had dumped in front of Lincoln Park.” He says he kept that goose for a few months and then took him back to the Fauntleroy shore to join the other six. “He mated with the female, and the next babies were white.” Two females from that group survived 18 years, he continued. “I had watched them year after year, taking my bike rides, they would see me and my yellow jacket and start squawking …”
He noticed that the females were laying eggs that never hatched, since there was no male. So he put an ad on Craigslist last year, he said, looking for one. “A lady responded and said, ‘if you want a male goose, his name is Sam’ … so I drove up last May,” and met her. Sam was in a cage in the back of the woman’s Humvee “with bowls of food like a pet dog.” He says she insisted Sam ride in the front seat on his way to his new home, and – “I honored her wish.”
(May 2015 photo, texted to us by a reader)
He introduced Sam to the two females; Sam mated with one, and the other at some point disappeared.
And so, the babies seen by many earlier this year were hatched. “I built them a shelter” next to one of the waterfront homes by the ferry dock, “brought food and water every day. She had five babies” but “stepped on” two of them, he said.
Then he moved them to another waterfront yard but “Sam started taking them across (Fauntleroy Way) to find food, and two of them got hit.”
That was reported here after emerging in the comments on this story last July.
“We were left with one baby. And then a month ago, Sam disappeared. Neighbors said they heard a noise early in the day.” Based on a remark one neighbor reported hearing from a park visitor, they feared he had been caught to be eaten. Whatever happened, our storyteller continued, “no feathers (were left behind) … he just disappeared.”
After that, he said, he was contacted via e-mail, “several (times),” by a woman who said she had contacted “someone on Vashon” and said she was going to have them taken there because she was worried for them. “I wrote back and said, these geese have been there for 18 years, you have no right to do that.”
(The white geese of Fauntleroy’s shore, photographed May 2010 by Bonnie)
He believes she is one of the two who captured them. “The thing that disturbs me the most, the geese were down there by consent of the neighbors … while kids weren’t always kind to them, they were able to survive for 18 years. I have seen people at the park pet them, enjoy them, feed them .. they gave folks such joy … (the removal) has really destroyed something beautiful that was going on at the parks.”
He said one ferry-dock employee had watched them over the years; “I went to the ferry dock (once) looking for them, (an employee asked) ‘can I help you?'” He replied, “I was just looking for our geese.”
As he recalls it, she said, “YOUR geese? Oh, so what’s YOUR story? Everybody has a story about the geese.”
He explained he was the one who originally brought them to the Fauntleroy shore. “She opened up the back door of the toll booth and said, ‘I’ve catalogued “your geese” for the past 20 years and your story matches” (what she had seen).'” She had photos of them all, he said.
Now, the only photos you’ll see of them are via the BaaHaus page on Facebook.
We asked the BaaHaus rep what their lives will be like at their six-acre compound.
“BaaHaus provides a permanent secure home for its animal residents. Once the geese are out of quarantine … we will work to integrate them into the flock. Anyone who knows geese will tell you they are very smart and extremely social animals. The geese at BaaHaus form and re-form attachments all the time. Today we have six different enclosures where they spend the night depending on who they decide to settle in with at the end of the day. These enclosures are fortified against raccoons and other predators and contain covered shelter as well as water for swimming and drinking. During the day the geese roam the BaaHaus double-fenced acreage and play in the large 2 level pond.”