Nature's foster families give injured babies a second chance

Cheaper by the dozen? We think so! The newly released gosling fits right in with his 11 foster siblings.

For some wildlife, foster parenting comes naturally. That acceptance is a huge help for wildlife rehabbers working toward the goal of returning injured baby animals back into the wild.

Recently, Lake Erie Nature & Science Center’s Wildlife Education & Rehabilitation Program staff successfully released two young gosling patients into new “foster” families at Westlake’s Clague Park. Both babies had required rehab treatment for leg injuries.   

One of the goslings was injured by jumping or falling off the roof of Westlake High School where his parents had made a nest. Groundskeepers at the school found the young goose dragging his leg and brought him to Lake Erie Nature & Science Center where he was given a "boot" to help his leg heal and the opportunity to recover safely.

Although the releases of these young geese were completed successfully, returning goslings back into the wild can be challenging. The best success is when the original family can be located. Wildlife Rehabilitation Specialist Jamie Raible made sure to keep a safe distance because parent geese are very protective and will charge at anyone who approaches their young too closely. Raible also looked for a foster family with goslings similar in size and age.

“Geese will hiss a warning to stay away from their family and will charge if the warning is ignored,” Raible explained. “They are usually very accepting of other baby geese especially if they are the same size or smaller than their own young.” 

The same cannot be said of mallard ducks. Rehabilitation staff must find the original family when releasing an injured duckling because any attempt to place a baby of any age with a mallard foster family usually ends in rejection.

Center rehab staff emphasize that they only take in baby animals that are seriously injured because human care should be a last resort.

“Often, baby animals are mistaken for being orphaned or injured when they are simply exhibiting normal wildlife behavior,” LeMonds said. “It can be very difficult to release baby animals into the wild once they are removed from their families. Please make every attempt not to interfere with young animals.”

LeMonds strongly encourages you to call Lake Erie Nature & Science Center at 440-871-2900 prior to attempting to rescue any wildlife, especially babies. You’ll also find detailed answers about many backyard wildlife dilemmas in the Wildlife Rehabilitation FAQ’s posted on www.lensc.org.

Joanna Galysh

Joanna Galysh is a Community Relations intern at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center.

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Volume 3, Issue 12, Posted 2:14 PM, 06.14.2011