"I'm the Alpha Goose now!"

Mikal Jakubal mjakubal at asis.com
Fri Mar 24 20:12:15 EST 2000

I thought you all might enjoy the following story as an example of the
observation and mimicking of nature. This happened day before yesterday.

I've always liked geese, even though they are more pets than really
functional elements in any design. They're just fun to have around--sort of
like noisy yard ornaments with attitudes. They're more fun, of course, if
they're friendly. These two were given to me last fall as rather skittish
adults. Now that it's spring, mating season and all, they can occasionally
get downright aggressive to anyone who ventures into the garden area where
they live. The dominant one regularly challenges me and has come fairly
close to me on occasion--especially when I ring the bell and open the grain
bucket--though he still wouldn't eat out of my hand. A few days ago, I
watched the two of them fighting. It went on for quite a while. Previous
geese I've had have been really mellow--this was my first time watching
them fight up close. For those who have never seen it, they put their heads
over each other's "shoulders" and bite the back or the wing of the other
while trying to climb up on the other's back. Sometimes the weaker one will
break loose and run. Other times, the stronger goose climbs up on the
other's back and walks around while biting it. It looks similar to when
they mate. There is also all sorts of other body language involved: sounds,
postures, feather ruffling, wing flapping.

Two days ago, the dominant goose came squawking up to me, neck outstretched
as usual. Just for fun, I got down on my hands and knees and squawked back
(something I do anyway to acknowledge them). I'd noticed before that he
seemed more afraid of my hands, so I put them back and just inched toward
him face first. He let me scoot up next to him close enough to touch, so I
put my head over his shoulder, he did likewise, and the fight was on! I
protected my ears with gloved hands, laid down flat on my stomach, and let
him climb up on me. Like most animal fights, it is very ritualized combat.
As long as I didn't try to resist, he didn't really bite hard, though he
could have easily. After a while, I rolled him off, re-wrapped my neck
around his, and gradually pressed his back down to the ground with my chin,
talking to him the whole time. Once I had him pinned for a while, he calmed
down. I told him that I was alpha goose around here now and don't he ever
forget it! 

We're now buddies. He'll sit on my lap and let me pet him and scratch his
neck. I haven't decided whether he actually likes this, the way a cat
would, or merely tolerates it. Now and again he'll start the challenge
again, but a firm hand on the back puts an end to it and he mellows out. My
next project is to get the other one tame.

Squawk! Squawk!


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