MUCH IS A DEAD GOOSE WORTH?
by Whit Gibbons
February 17, 2003
could possibly put down an article with a headline that read, "Students
jailed in goose killing"? Not I, so I read on to see what the article
in the Charlotte Observer had to say. At first I thought it might be
a new humor column. It was not.
five fraternity boys in Davidson, North Carolina, went to a local park
that I assume had a lake. One of them dropped some bread crumbs on the
ground to lure a goose within striking distance of a five iron (or maybe
it was a putter or a driver). But whatever the case, the unsuspecting
goose was knocked senseless with a golf club and put in the trunk of
the car. Meanwhile, the equally unsuspecting carload of goose killers
failed to see that a passerby was watching this unstylish Monte Python
skit and took down their tag number. The story took a true Law and Order
turn when the "perps" were arrested and the "vic"
was found dead in the trunk.
some of the information I later read and heard you would think this
goose killing rivaled the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. First off, I
have to wonder about a judge who would put a $20,000 bond on a college
student for killing a goose. A nasty case of unjustifiable destruction
it was. But $20,000! Good grief, was this really a goose that laid some
kind of golden eggs?
statement released by Davidson College said that the students' actions
were "both repugnant and senseless" and that an investigation
of the incident was under way by the Davidson College Campus Police.
Also, the dean of students at the college "will determine what
actions will be taken pursuant to the college's Code of Responsibility."
I do not disagree with most of these statements and positions, but I
take issue with the idea that killing a goose (especially an introduced,
nonnative species) should be any worse than some of the actions people
take against native wildlife. Understand, now, I'm not condoning killing
geese in public parks with golf clubs, even during hunting or golf season,
but let's put the incident in perspective.
of the town commissioners went on record as saying that people were
"stunned" by the incident. Again, we should not deride someone
for feeling emotional about an animal getting killed or being angered
by outright vandalism. But do you suppose that commissioner would be
stunned to know that on that same night more than a dozen raccoons,
possums, skunks, and foxes probably were run down and killed on highways
that the commission had approved over the last decade? And what about
the sanctioned loss of small wetlands that has resulted in the untimely
deaths of millions of amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals? And would
Davidson College issue a statement about the "repugnant and senseless"
killing of a harmless kingsnake or rat snake on campus?
point is that this goose should not get any more sympathy than the native
wildlife that suffer horrible deaths every day and night in that region--and
every other region of the country. Especially when some of their deaths
are because of decisions made by some of the same people who are whooping
and hollering about a single dead goose.
People everywhere should consider the importance of protecting natural
habitats and the wildlife that inhabit them. Killing the goose was a
dumb thing to do. But destroying wildlife in many other ways is even
dumber. One goose is trivial compared to the daily losses to our native
wildlife populations from other causes; yet most people pay no attention
to that slaughter. If court time and public taxes are to be spent on
prosecuting the five goose killers, I hope that on the same docket will
be the people in the area who have destroyed wetlands, built unnecessary
highways, and intentionally killed harmless snakes. I don't mind if
a goose becomes the symbol for a community's stand against insensitive
attitudes toward wildlife. I do mind if people are upset simply because
it was a goose instead of something else.
If you have an environmental question or comment, email