It’s been a very busy and chaotic winter for me. Not so much in the rehab portion of my life, but in my ‘real job’. My decision to retire a year early from the Ministry of Natural Resources has left me scrambling at work to clean up outstanding files and projects. So no recent blogs.
But I was also deleting and filing some of the photos I had used in my work, and ran across a few of my rehab patients. In particular, goslings with a ‘dummy mummy’.
Waterfowl are notorious for imprinting, and when I first started working at Natural Resources, if a duckling or gosling was ‘found’ and brought in, the thought at that time and by some folks still, the little one would be so badly imprinted on humans it could not be released. The foundling was either euthanized or dumped off in a random waterbody for ‘nature to take it’s course’. But it seems this can be avoided if they are raised with a ‘dummy mummy’ and allowed freedom as they grow.
I have raised many goslings and ducklings since we moved out to our property and built our beaver pond. By using mirrors in the enclosure when raising single goslings,the gosling quickly reacts and responds to its image, eating and sleeping in front of it. This is especially important as without this image recognition, introduction of more ‘foundlings’ to the enclosure causes great distress and fear. In addition to the mirrors, I leave one of Bruce’s goose decoys in the enclosure, with a warm cloth draped over its wings. The young will crawl under it and sleep. If necessary, I add a 2 liter pop bottle filled with hot water to keep them warm on especially cold spring mornings. Once they are running around grazing on grasses, I set out their ‘dummy mummy’. They are only in the enclosure on cold days or for protection when I can’t be on the lookout for predators.The goslings will feed in the vicinity of the decoy, running under her wings if a crow or eagle flies over. Eventually, I set the decoy into the pond, and the young will swim and bath near it.
The decoy also gives me a level of control over their wanderings. If I see a mink, snapping turtle or other danger from my seat on the balcony, I can drag the dummy mummy by its long check cord, back up to the enclosure with the young scrabbling to keep up with ‘mummy’s’ bouncy gait.
The success of the young is validated by their return each year to fight over nesting sites on our small pond. The victors raise their young, keeping them a safe distance from me. The remaining family may return later in the year to flock with the family and the families move overland from pond to pond, but always seem to return for a few weeks of and on during the summer. Low water levels and predators can persuade them to move to larger waterbodies, but they often overnight on the pond in the fall. A few of the brave will venture up to get a handout from me and to check to see if ‘dummy mummy’ is still in the enclosure.
But despite old wives tales, they don’t need their parents to help them migrate. A good thing as many adult geese with young of the year are shot prior to migration. And those young know to migrate as well.
I have used dummy mummys for other animals and will add those to my blog at a later date.