Honk Honk Goose

Blog by Alyssa Lakota & Genevieve Arterburn


On a cold May evening, in the middle of a heavy rain and hail storm, a gosling wandered up someone’s driveway, separated from his siblings and parents. A month later, in June, another gosling was found orphaned near Little Payette Lake. In both circumstances, efforts to reunite them with family were unsuccessful. Attempts to introduce them into flocks with other goslings around the same age were made in vain, as hardly any geese were found between McCall and Cascade. We presume Avian Flu and a long, tough winter had much to do with the decrease in their numbers. The couple of flocks we did manage to locate swam away before an introduction was possible, or they simply took no interest. One flock had at least six goslings. It felt as if they said, “We already have too many mouths to feed. Move along.” And so, we did [move along].


As the goslings grew, we continued our search, reaching out to multiple people in hopes of a sighting. During our pursuit, we stopped to ask a man and his daughter riding bicycles if they had seen any geese. They did not, but they took our number, and a short time later, they called. We met up and took to the water to scout the location. We couldn’t see them, but we could hear them. A plan could now be hatched. A few days later, when conditions were right, we met up again, taking to the water yet again, only this time with our two goslings on board, heading towards the flock. There they were. We set our goslings loose and hid in the tall grasses and behind our flotation devices to ease them into the flock. It seemed as if they had found their new tribe, but an adult goose suddenly attacked one of the two goslings, scaring both out of the water and up an embankment. The flock aggressively shook their heads in unison, “No,” and encouraged their young to follow, leading them away from the two in our care. We felt defeated. We strove to avoid releasing them into the crowded Boise parks. Our goal was to return them to the wild.


Weeks later, when their flight feathers grew, we began physical therapy in Snowdon’s new flight barn. Each Canada Goose was encouraged to fly back and forth, making multiple passes, until we felt comfortable with their abilities to escape danger once released. That day finally arrived.


We set off on a warm September day to release these two before the majority of geese migrate south for winter. We were nervous, including our geese, to find the perfect spot. We approached the lake and mud flats and held our breath. We saw a blue heron, pelicans, but no geese. However, we rounded the corner, and to our excitement, we finally saw geese. We hopped out of the truck to investigate, but they flew away despite keeping our distance. We climbed back in and drove down a road near where they all flew. With the sun going down and the proximity to the road, we were skeptical about releasing them at this time. Thinking this was perhaps their only opportunity (the flock could be gone tomorrow), we took a chance and carried each crate down a hill through tall vegetation. We held our breath and opened the crate doors. They seemed confused and scared at first, but then one took flight and glided over the flats. The other soon followed. We grabbed our binoculars and observed them for an hour or longer. After meeting a few ducks along the way, they slowly and gingerly approached the flock. What appeared to be the alpha goose made it clear that he was in charge but seemed inviting. They happily joined the rest grazing nearby, and soon we could no longer differentiate which geese were ours.

April Showers Bring May Volunteers & Interns!

They came from the east. They came from the west. They met in McCall, Idaho, at Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary. Please welcome our two spring/summer interns, Shannon Blount and AnaVictoria Garcia Medina. Both are studying to become Wildlife Veterinarians with goals of working internationally and helping underserved communities. Both are highly motivated and inspirational, working tirelessly to prepare our facility for the arrival of orphaned and injured animals and caring for those already here. Additionally, they are learning to train two educational raptors, Merlin and Qa’ya (Great Horned Owl and Red-Tailed Hawk).


Shannon has worked with not-for-profits before. She has experience working with some wildlife and studied as a young adult at The Ohio State University. She has since come full circle, continuing her studies at Southeast Missouri State University. Shannon and her husband built a straw bale home, off-grid, for themselves and their two sons. No small feat! She has brought those incredible skills to Snowdon and has single-handedly repaired and rebuilt animal enclosures with their safety and welfare in mind.


AnaVictoria, also known as AV, has been a big animal lover since she was little. Currently, she is studying at the University of San Francisco. She is passionate about conservation and environmental justice. She has fostered a lot of animals. AV has taken on the challenge of organizing and redesigning the Snowdon clinic. It is a tiny space, and without knocking down any walls, she strives to make it feel roomier than it actually is.


Baby season is slightly delayed, perhaps due to the long winter, but soon these projects of theirs will pay off dearly for the little ones now starting to arrive. Thank you, Shannon and AV. We are excited to have you on board. May you have a wonderful time here at Snowdon. May you learn something new each day. May you teach me something new every day too.


Before Shannon and AV arrived, Snowdon was fortunate to have eighteen men and women from U.S. Courts, District of Idaho, volunteer to prepare our site for baby season and the arrival of our interns. Shannon and AV will never know what they missed. This working party of volunteers cleaned things no one in their right mind should ever have to touch! It was, at times, disgusting! They did it without balking or batting an eyelash. They removed organic matter and debris (a polite way to say, feces or poop), repaired entryways, moved fencing and fence lines, fixed screens, constructed platforms, filled holes, raked gravel, removed old, drenched hay, dragged tree branches, and passed crates and bins down from the loft in the barn, only to return some of those same items back up to the loft space once cleaned. They scrubbed, hosed, lifted, and hauled. They helped clean the intern cabin and more!


The day before their arrival, the sensation was a feeling of being overwhelmed. We would not be ready to take in animals without their assistance. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your energy, enthusiasm, perseverance, work ethic and efforts, and mind-blowing capabilities to achieve many of our goals in a single day! Actually, it wasn’t a single day. It was four incredible hours! My only regret was not getting to say goodbye to each of you and not capturing a group photo. Please allow me to thank you: Benjamin Biddulph, Carrie Christopher, Carrie Wade, Colton Esplin, Crystal Laleman, Emma Wilkins, Erica Langton, Gavin Zickefoose, Hailey Baker, Jason Hofstetter, Jen Duboise, Jeremy Hansen, John Godwin, Jonathan Skinner, Kim Neal, Kyle Peterson, Nate Hudson, and Selvi Mustafic.  Jessie Thompson-Kelley, thank you for organizing the event. Further thanks to our dedicated Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary team, board members, and supporters.

The things we do for love

The Things We Do For Love


The journey to Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary to become the new Wildlife Rehabilitator Manager was exciting, to say the least. Picture this… 10 months ago, leaving Vermont to work as a Registered Veterinary Technician at Big Bear Alpine Zoo and VCA Lakeside Animal Hospital in Big Bear Lake, California. Now, cut to… 3 weeks ago when roads up-and-down the mountain to Big Bear were closed due to the insane amount of snow being dumped… tons of snow… and more snow… and more. So much snow it was nearly impossible to throw it out of the way. Now picture 38 steep steps to climb to the front door. 38 steep steps to keep cleared of snow in order to pack the car to move to McCall, Idaho. Then, there were decks to clear to avoid collapse. The driveway. The unplowed roads. What does one do? They shovel… and shovel more… and more. Not only must one shovel out their home, but the job where they care for injured wildlife needs to be shoveled too… repeatedly… exhaustingly… painstakingly, because lives literally depended upon it… wild lives. Let us not forget that on top of shoveling, one had to pack, clean, and steam clean rugs because someone really wanted their security deposit back. The question over those two weeks of clearing snow and ice was… Will the landlords be able to make it for the walk-through, and will someone be able to leave on their moving day because, again, roads were closed, and only residents with proof of residency were allowed up and down the hill? Thankfully, when the day arrived to head out of town, roads were finally open to everyone.


The car is packed to the roof in every available space. The driver seat is erect, elbows snug to the body, and legs not any better. The seat position could not be moved back any further. Two large dogs shared breathing room only. And, literally, up to the very last moment when a decision had to be made, the question looming was… take scenic Highway 93 or go through Death Valley National Park? If ever there was a time to go, now is it. Annnnnnd… Death Valley it is! Made it there in time to appreciate the sunset at Zabriskie Point. Then, pitched the tent in the dark for the night. The dirt was hard as pavement, meaning stakes were nearly impossible to pound into the ground. Piling rocks was the go-to source that helped secure the tent in place. Winds packed a punch all night long, but we slept almost peacefully.


In the morning, the car was loaded once more. We proceeded to several scenic stops throughout the park, stretched our legs, admired the views, and marked a little territory here and there (two dogs, remember?). Do not fear. They did not desecrate anyplace where they were not allowed to go… and, as they say, have poop bags, will travel. They do say that… right? Anyway, here is the list of places we admired inside the park: Badwater Basin (282 feet below sea level), The Devil’s Golf Course, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Artists Drive and Artists Palette. In a word, AMAZING!


After completing Death Valley, the next stop was Rhyolite Ghost Town to take in the Ruins, Tom Kelley’s Bottle House, Goldwell Open Air Museum, and a Cemetery. That night we chose to stay in a motel somewhere in Wells, Nevada. It was dark and snowing, and the mood to search for a place to camp was lost to the need for sleep.  From there, the next day, Snowdon or Bust! It is a MUST to photograph the Extraterrestrial Highway Sign along the way. It is unearthly.

Upon crossing over the bridge above Snake River in Twin Falls, Idaho one must stop to admire the view and recall Evel Knievel’s attempt to jump across the river on a rocket-propelled motorcycle, albeit not at that specific stopping point. He did not make it, but he lived to talk about it.


Lastly, McCall, Idaho… Snowdon Wildlife Sanctuary. Upon arrival, the greeting was friendly and warm while demonstrating how life off-grid would work. Took the next day off to unpack and settle in and reflect on how much I love working with wildlife. The day after that, the winter intern, Bob, introduced the animals before heading to the roof, where we naturally cleared more snow and ice. Thank you, Jeff, for joining us! Two days later, it was back to shoveling more snow off the rooftop… but, truth be told, Bob was the muscle. Putty arms and zapped energy meant several breaks for this weary one to rest their head upon their shovel handle. Thank you, Bob! You ROCK! It would not have been completed without you.


Bob is leaving Snowdon in another week. He will be greatly missed. While the time working together was short, he is incredibly knowledgeable and fascinating to listen to. Wishing him nothing but pure joy and success on the next leg of his journey. He has accepted an exciting job opportunity where he will do incredible things for rivers and the environment. Cheers to you, Bob! We will see you down the road… or, down the river. Safely down the river.