Goose checks in at medical center

Northwoods Notebook

Wildlife rehabilitator Phyllis Carlson is taking care of a Canada goose that showed up this week outside the employee entrance at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain. Although it doesn’t seem to have an injury, it does have relatively short primary feathers on its wings, enough to probably interfere with its ability to fly. Theresa Proudfit/Daily News Photo

Phyllis Carlson got sent on a wild goose chase this week. Really.

And that cliche might be the only part of this story that is routine.

As a wildlife rehabilitator, Carlson regularly gets called out to capture animals that appear to be injured or ill.

But here’s the problem — these animals often have little wish to be caught, even if hurting or otherwise in trouble. They, of course, have no way of knowing the approaching human wants to help.

And Carlson is not physically capable of chasing down or wrestling with or wading after a bird or beast intent on eluding her, even one that might be hobbled in some way. A wing-damaged waterbird still can run or swim if it has an escape route, Carlson pointed out.

This one already had disappeared by the time she got to where it was last seen Wednesday: the grounds of the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain.

Staff at the hospital said the Canada goose had shown up at an employees’ entrance, looking like it wanted to come in, Carlson said. It also appeared unable to fly, though it could flap.

The Department of Natural Resources got the same report, said Monica Joseph, wildlife biologist at the DNR Crystal Falls office, adding, “that’s not normal.”

Ryan McGillviray, a DNR wildlife technician also based in Crystal Falls, was able to corral the goose later that same day when it resumed wandering among the hospital buildings. He turned it over Thursday morning to Carlson, who now has the bird in a dog kennel in her yard.

While it doesn’t seem to have an injury, it does have relatively short primary feathers on its wings, enough to probably interfere with its ability to fly, Carlson said. McGillviray noted the same when dropping off the goose, she said.

It might be a young goose hatched very late in the season — perhaps due to the very wet summer this year — that hasn’t matured enough to fly south. That also would account for its relative lack of fear about humans — even at her home, it will move away from her as she approaches but not quickly and otherwise is comfortable enough to eat and preen.

McGillviray told her he’s seen young turkey poults this fall with similar short wing primaries, she said.

Carlson also believes this could be the same bird she was called about the previous weekend that refused to leave another Canada goose struck and killed by a vehicle. Both had a spot on the head with feathers rubbed off and tail feathers askew.

She took the dead goose away after its companion proved too nimble to catch, flapping away but never actually taking flight.

“The second you turn around, though, it’ll start following you,” Carlson said, adding perhaps it and its unlucky partner were being fed.

She’ll keep the goose until, hopefully, it’s able to fly or she can find a spot with open water and other geese where it can be released.


Sticking with Carlson, she will be organizing the annual Dickinson County Christmas Bird Count set for Saturday, Dec. 16. As she is picking this up for the first time from a previous coordinator, Carlson has asked that anyone who plans or wants to participate contact her by email at The more eyes out there that day, the more complete the survey will be.

This year’s Christmas Bird Count will be the 118th for the National Audubon Society, which enlists “citizen scientists” to do a 24-hour bird census within designated circles in the U.S., Canada, and many countries in the Western Hemisphere. The data then is analyzed to gauge how avian populations might be expanding their numbers and range, or losing ground.

Unlike the Great Backyard Bird Count, which Audubon also does along with Cornell Lab of Ornithology in February, this one doesn’t take individual reports — the work must be done by teams in the 15-mile circle only, to keep records consistent for comparison.

Betsy Bloom can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 40, or