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Lame Goose Is Latest Victim in Attacks on Park Waterfowl

Wildlife: At least 14 birds have been found with broken legs since January in Costa Mesa.

July 25, 2001|ANDREA PERERA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jessie the goose, a favorite at Costa Mesa's TeWinkle Memorial Park, may be the latest victim in what park regulars say is a string of attacks on waterfowl.

The goose was found late last week with a broken leg and is being treated at All Creatures Animal Care in Huntington Beach. Since January, at least 14 ducks and geese from TeWinkle Park have been brought to the veterinary hospital with broken legs.

The injuries can't all be accidental, hospital staffers said. "There are a lot of kids that go swinging branches, rocks and God knows what else at the animals there," said Debbie McGuire, hospital administrator at All Creatures.

Hospital staffers contacted Costa Mesa police and animal control about Jessie and said they will file an official report. They wonder if Jessie's injury could be related to a July incident at TeWinkle, in which three male teens were reported swinging golf clubs in an area near the birds.

However, police said they aren't pursuing that case since no waterfowl suffered any injuries. And, they said, the incident seems unrelated to Jessie.

"Unless I have a witness and suspect, there's no way to tie [Jessie] to the golf club incident," said Det. Larry Torres.

Jessie's injury looked like a blunt trauma--the kind of break caused by a swift and purposeful blow, said Dr. Joel Pasco, director of veterinary services at All Creatures. So far this month, the hospital has treated two ducks and a goose with broken legs. Their care is subsidized by donations.

Birds from TeWinkle are often the targets of abuse, Pasco said. Four fowl at the park were shot and killed in May 2000. In 1997, seven birds were shot to death and three were injured with pellet guns. Four local teenagers were found to be at fault for some of the 1997 attacks.

"We have these cyclic duck or geese mutilations at the park," Pasco said. "We see them come in with BB or pellet wounds, even blow darts shot at them. I've been at the park and seen kids chasing them, throwing rocks and trying to hit them with sticks.

"This is the first time I've seen them made into giant golf balls, though."

Michelle Berger, a volunteer with the county's Wetlands and Wildlife Center, found the injured Jessie on Friday while checking on birds at TeWinkle Park, on Arlington Drive. Berger has tended to the geese, ducks and egrets that have wandered freely throughout the park for more than 15 years.

"When I got there, she was trying to use her wings as crutches," Berger said. "But she just couldn't get up."

By Tuesday morning, Jessie was propping herself up with the help of the blue cast on her right leg. Hospital staffers said she will remain in the cast for two to three weeks. Jessie will then undergo a month of rehabilitation but might always have a limp.

Orange County Animal Care officials said that if someone purposefully hurt Jessie, the offender could face at least a year in state prison, as much as $20,000 in fines or both.

Berger's just happy that she found Jessie when she did. Trapped in the grass, the goose was defenseless. "There's kids and dogs running around the park, and you can't get up to help yourself," Berger said. "You're basically a sitting duck. Or goose, actually."

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