Jim Reynolds — unofficial mayor of the Dock Area — was out for a stroll in his neighbourhood recently, and decided to check on the local fowl. A small flock of mixed domestic geese had managed to hatch some goslings earlier this year, and local residents (and visitors) have been enjoying watching their progress.
As he approached the flock’s favourite spot, he reports he was shocked to see a rather dramatic scene: Two women had nets and metal dog crates, and were attempting to catch the birds and place them in the cages. “They seemed to know what they were doing,” he says. “One woman explained they were rescuing these distressed, abandoned domestic geese.” He says she went on to say they would not survive the winter, and would all die horrible deaths if they remained in the wild.
Reynolds explained to her this flock has been in this area for five years, and there was no reason to traumatize and remove them.
While the birds were hustled into the crates, Reynolds called the Niagara Falls Humane Society. Reynolds says the woman claimed she had their permission to “save” these birds. He reports the receptionist at the humane society said based on what they had been told, they felt the women were justified in rescuing these geese.
Reynolds’ next call was to Ken Reid, NOTL’s canine control officer and animal control representative.
Reid says, “I received a call from irate residents regarding an issue on site. I came to the scene and understood the women were called by someone local who had witnessed the birds suffering and dying and had contacted a nearby sanctuary to rescue them.”
Having heard Reynolds’ perspective, and knowing this flock well from his rounds, Reid found a simple legal recourse to have the women desist. He called Warwick Perrin, the Town's supervisor of bylaw enforcement, to determine if there were any bylaws being broken in this incident. Reid was then able to insist the women release the birds or be charged under the trapping bylaw, as they did not have the appropriate (or any) permits to cage and remove the wildlife.
“At this point, one of the women told me she’d been misinformed,” says Reid. “She had no idea the geese had been here for years, and could see they were clearly very healthy. She was happy to release the birds and leave the site, and said she was confident the birds should stay exactly where they are.”
That woman is Megan Mostacci, co-owner of the Black Goat Sanctuary in Smithville.
Mostacci describes what still remains something of a mystery. She says that a couple of months ago, she saw a post on the Ontario Poultry Fanciers and Hobbyists Facebook page. It read, in part, “Is anyone else here located in or near the Niagara region who want to adopt some abandoned geese? There are 4 adults, 3 white Embden one brown African/Toulouse/Chinese cross, and 5-6 Embden goslings. Someone dumped them on a local shoreline. They need a proper home. I will catch them and deliver them. Please let me know asap!”
Concerned for the welfare of these birds in apparent distress, Mostacci reached out. “I asked a million questions.” She was told a flock of domestic geese had been dumped and were dying. “I said I would be happy to help,” she says.
She arranged to meet the woman who posted the call for help on-site at an appointed time. Upon arrival, Mostacci was surprised: “They looked in great condition—looked better than most geese I’ve seen on private properties. I had expected the worst.” She confirms she called the Niagara Falls Humane Society to determine the local protocol for animals that had been dumped — as she had been led to believe these had been. “I wanted to be sure that things were being done properly — at that time thinking they were abandoned pets essentially.” She says she was given the go-ahead by the humane society to corral the animals and take them to her sanctuary.
When Reynolds and Reid showed up and started questioning the situation, Mostacci says it confirmed her sense that something was not right with this whole story. She says she was deeply relieved to release the birds and be on her way. “That was the first and last time I will ever do anything like this,” she says sadly. She and her partner at the sanctuary typically receive animals that have been rescued from dire situations by animal control officers.
Reid and Mostacci both confirm she called him within minutes of leaving the scene to reiterate her frustration and disappointment. She wanted him to know, again, “I was misled. I firmly believe the birds should be left where they are. It’s an established, healthy colony; clearly not in any distress.”
It is now clear no phone call was made by a local person concerned about the birds; that was simply a misunderstanding by Reid based on the facts he was given on arrival. The woman who posted the rescue request on Facebook, and who continued to mislead Reid, Mostacci and others, seems to have developed an apparently inaccurate perspective on the situation.
Perhaps the most distressing aspect of this tale is the fact that this woman actively continues to seek help “saving” them. Mostacci says the woman told her as recently as at press time that she is “waiting on city approval to take the geese.”