Geese guard nest outside store as shoppers gander

VIVIAN SADE The Journal Gazette Published:

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) -- Silly goose.

A Canada goose and her mate have returned to their favorite nesting spot - a large flower pot just outside the entrance of Office Depot on West Jefferson Boulevard.

Mother goose rarely leaves her eggs, appearing to be calm and contented until someone gets a little too close - then she "gets mean," according to store department manager Bryan Harz.

Father goose stays close and can be seen patrolling the parking lot. Many times he can be spotted perched directly above his family on the ledge of the store roof, conducting surveillance, Harz said.

The pair initially showed up three years ago, Harz said, and returned the following year, but there was no sign of them last year.

Last Friday morning, around 9 a.m., the goose laid eggs in the dirt in the flowerpot. Harz is sure it's the same geese, because the male has a limp, he said. Store staff immediately blocked off the nesting area with caution tape and shopping carts to keep spectators out of the moody fowl zone and to protect the goose, as well.

Two years ago, Harz called city animal control officials, who said there was nothing they could do and referred Harz to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. A conservation officer told Harz that once the goose nested and laid eggs, it could not be moved. So they left them alone, Harz said.

Reports of Canada geese nesting in urban areas are on the rise, according to DNR spokesman Phil Bloom.

Canada geese fall under the protection of the Federal Migratory Bird Act of 1918, which gives the Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service oversight authority of the migratory birds, Bloom said.

But the fowl are not endangered, he said.

New rules allow landowners and managers of public lands to register online with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and receive permission to relocate the birds or destroy eggs and nests, or to call a licensed wildlife official to do the same, Bloom said.

But Harz is not interested in removal. Both the store's staff and the public enjoy watching the geese, he said.

Several years ago, a patron dubbed the female goose "Agnes," and it stuck, he said. Another customer has placed a milk jug fashioned into a water dispenser inside the planter and the goose drinks from it regularly.

The father goose used to be very combative and aggressive, but this year he seems more sedate, Harz said.

Sometimes the male bird sits defiantly in the middle of the driveway in front of the store and will not budge, Harz said.

The fowl's mating season is generally from February to March; nesting season is March through May.

Harz said he has counted three eggs, but there may be more. Every night at dusk, the mother partly uncovers the eggs, one by one, and rotates them, covering them again with dirt once they are turned, Harz said.

The goose leaves her nest about an hour every night to find food while the male keeps watch, Harz said.

In the meantime, store employees are whiling away the time until the goslings arrive, with a small betting pool on the anticipated hatching date.

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Information from: The Journal Gazette, http://www.journalgazette.net