Every year a pair of Canada geese raise a family on the beaver pond below our house. This year five goslings hatched. Heading back home from walking the dogs one morning early this summer, I heard the adult geese honking in alarm and the sound of thrashing in the water. I stopped on the bank of the pond.
Across the pond in the marshy section I could see the adult geese. Both were striking at the surface of the water with their bills and wings while honking. Between them one of their goslings struggled in the weeds. The other four goslings floated quietly on the far side of the pond in a tight bunch.
There are snapping turtles that live in the beaver pond. Based on what I saw across the pond, it was almost certainly a snapper that had snared the baby goose by one of its legs. I went up to the house to get my boots and put the dogs in the kennel.
Walking back to the pond I didn’t know what I’d do. I was by myself. How would I catch the animals? If I did catch them, then what? But I couldn’t just ignore the situation.
The adult geese were so focused on their baby that they initially didn’t see me in the cattails. To my dismay, I saw my suspicions confirmed. A snapper did have the gosling by one of its legs. The turtle was too small to pull the hefty gosling under the water, but the gosling was too small to either pull away from the turtle or pull the turtle up onto the bank. I moved forward and seeing me suddenly emerge from the cattails added to the adults’ panic. Their honking ratcheted up and the gosling with its snapping turtle rudder, lowered its head and neck to the surface of the water, and went still. Wincing in sympathy for the gosling, I took a step forward. When my shadow fell on the turtle, it swam away, the gosling fighting back, followed by its honking, flailing parents.
By this time the gosling and the turtle were beyond my reach. There was now really nothing I could do. Sighing, I went back home, leaving the squawking geese behind me.
For three days I didn’t see the geese. I took my binoculars when I walked the dogs and made a point of walking by the pond on our twice-daily walks. I’d stand on the bank, looking for the geese, studying the edges of the pond. The still surface of the pond told me nothing.
On the morning of the fourth day I saw the geese in a row, swimming serenely. The five goslings were lined up one behind the other, following one of their parents while the second adult goose brought up the rear. I watched the goslings, trying to figure out which one had had the run-in with the snapping turtle, but I couldn’t tell.
I wondered if the snapping turtle was the same one the dogs and I had seen some weeks earlier, laying eggs in the sandy causeway down by the pond. The same one whose eggs had been dug up and eaten by a predator the night after they were laid.