MANHATTAN BEACH — To many visitors to Polliwog Park, the wild geese that stop there during flights through the South Bay give the area a charming, rural character.
Not so, says Martha Nolan, who lives on 1st Street several blocks from the park.
Nolan, 55, says a vicious goose charged at her early one morning while she was strolling through the park. The large white goose attacked her legs, and after a brief but traumatic encounter with the tenacious web-footed creature, Nolan slipped and fell, breaking two bones in her left wrist.
"I tried to hit her with my foot and get out of the way," Nolan recalled. "But she was mean. . . . I was just minding my own business."
Her lower arm snug in a cast, Nolan filed a claim last month against the city, seeking $1,250 in medical expenses and $6,000 in damages. The claim, which was routinely rejected by the City Council on Tuesday, alleges that the city is liable because it allowed a "dangerous goose" to remain in the park.
Nolan, a retired telephone company employee, said she was horrified by the aggressive goose. She has returned to the park just once since the attack in March--and then only in the hope of pointing out the offending bird to an animal control officer. None of the several geese at the pond that time would venture out of the water though, so Nolan was unable to nab her assailant.
"I was just walking, and it attacked me," she said. "I thought I was going to faint. . . . I am not asking for very much, but with the inconvenience and pain--well, I couldn't even do my housework."
Nolan filed the claim without the help of an attorney, and she said this week that she is not out to make a fortune off the city. But her broken wrist was very painful, she said, and she needed to hire a cleaning woman to pick up around her house during the six weeks she was in a cast.
Gary Martin, the city's risk manager who recommended that the council reject the claim, said that any compensation in this case would be too much.
"I don't see how people hold the city responsible for migratory birds behaving in this way," Martin said. "The city doesn't own the birds, and it has no control over where they go. . . . This is not to say that I am not personally sorry for what happened, but I don't see how the city could consider migratory birds as dangerous."
Howard Fishman, the city's supervisor of community services, said Polliwog Park is a popular stopping point for numerous wild animals, as well as a dumping ground for unwanted pets--particularly rabbits and baby chicks shortly after Easter.
Nolan's case, however, is the first reported to the city that involves an attacking goose. Three years ago, animal control officers did remove a wild goose from the 18 1/2-acre park, but that was because it was too friendly, he said.
"It kept following someone home several streets away," Fishman said. "We kept bringing it back to the park, but it didn't want to stay in the park. Finally, we had to relocate it out of the city."
City officials aren't sure what happened to the goose that attacked Nolan, but they take comfort in the lack of other complaints about the "outlaw goose," as Martin called it.
"I would gather it's a good guess that the goose took off on its own," Fishman said.