Predator on a Stick
By: Julie Day
These crazy geese act like they belong here.
There’s a neighborhood I visit frequently that has a long-running battle with Canada geese, and boy, are they a nuisance! They fly in over the backlit mountains at sunset, making an obnoxious display of splashy rainbows and a cacophony of harmonized honks that echo off the hills.
The subsequent silence is deep and restful, as they tuck in and float on water that shines like glass. And in late spring, new little balls of fluff emerge, eagerly learning the ways of the goose without much of a care for the rules.
Most of the time, the geese have little regard for trifling things like boundaries and traffic laws. This spring, however, they’re really getting a run for their money. I don’t know how they did it, but the homeowner’s association has managed to coax in a small – but growing – population of a menace that’s clearly not to be trifled with: the elusive, native North American Predator on a Stick.
Made of Halloween-mask rubber, stuffed with paper, hinged to their pole to allow fearsome pivoting, adorned with a realistic fluffy tail, these fox-cicles (or are they coyote-pops?) are designed to scare the daylights out of the geese by reminding them of the olden days, before we hunted out all the natural predators that normally would have kept populations of geese under control.
The latest installment in the Goose Offensive.
To see a graceful predator (on a stick) in the wild, to witness its fierce protection of the shoreline against the pugnacious poultry . . . it’s just like an episode of Wild Kingdom! And as you can see, the geese are petrified – or, at the very least, maybe slightly hassled.
I happen to think these birds are a gracious gift, but to be fair, there are those who consider these geese quite a menace to tranquility. Perhaps it’s the noise, or the feathers, or the . . . um . . . compost, or their open defiance of fussy neighborhood bylaws. Or perhaps the residents simply didn’t realize that living on a shady mountain lake – bordering on thousands of acres of undeveloped wilderness – would be quite so, well, wild.
It’s an honest mistake – if we can tame brambles into lawns (please keep off the grass, thank you), shouldn’t we be able to convince the critters to stay in the woods?
The homeowner’s association keeps the geese on high priority. From fences to clackers to bush hogs to fake shotguns, there’s always something new, and it’s never working. I arrive for visits eager for the latest installment, which is usually indignantly pointed out by one of the outvoted (but no less passionate) members of the goose-loving opposition.
I’m no body-language expert, but the one at the back might be a wee bit nervous.
Oh, endless conquest! Depending on your perspective, the situation is either wildly funny or devilishly exasperating. As an outside observer, it’s pretty entertaining, like watching Bill Murray try to blow up gophers in Caddyshack.
I suppose I side with the geese because they understand something that we humans tend to forget – that try as we might, we can’t manufacture “nature” into tidy little packages, and that the world is better when we mess with it less. It’s the same weary sadness I get when I walk past store displays of upside-down tomato planters, dandelion killers, bug foggers, fat-free butter, and plastic rocks.
This feeling is only remedied by a backcountry hiking trip, or by going home and watching the ‘possum family dig through the compost pile (yes, I love them too), or by engaging in some random little acts of rebellion.
I promise that we weren’t the ones who decorated the predators with Easter bunny ears (man, I wish I could claim that!), but when nobody’s looking, we go out and whisper to the geese that this is their lake, and they can stay as long as they want.