So on Saturday, Sept. 15, my girlfriend Angie and I visited the 700-acre Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge. Not usually open on Saturdays, they were making an exception as part of an effort to attract more residents. And it seemed to work–the parking lot outside both the visitor’s center and the ponds themselves were full around noon.
It really is a beautiful place. After checking in at the visitor’s center, which is full of colorful, informative displays (one of them, titled “Location, Location, Location,” was actually playfully sarcastic) on the rare and endangered Hawaiian coots (‘alae ke‘oke‘o) and stilts (ae‘o) that live at Kealia, we headed down a narrow road to the ponds.
There were found dozens of stilts, walking and chirping in the water, as well as a few coots paddling around. Oh, there was also a giant goose chilling in the middle of one pond. Not a nene, mind you, but a goose like you’d find on the mainland. It was kind of odd, sure, but we didn’t think much of it. Until, that is, we got home and read this Hawaii News Now story.
“A Wailuku man has sued Maui County for negligence, claiming he suffered a cut hand and back injury after being attacked by a duck or goose at the county’s Waiehu Golf Course,” reported the news service. “Deputy Maui Parks Director Patrick Matsui said the alleged attack happened near the course’s irrigation pond. Matsui said as far as he knows, just that one bird was hanging out at the county’s lone golf course. After the attack, county officials caught the bird and took it to a bird refuge on another part of the island to release it, Matsui said.”
Oh. My. God. Never mind that the County of Maui Corporation Counsel’s office considers the suit by plaintiff Ray Sakamura to be completely baseless. We were far more concerned that we had just seen that (alleged) attack goose firsthand. Had our light bird-watching exercise on a lazy Saturday brought us face to face with a potentially dangerous adversary?
Turns out, no. According to Kealia Refuge Manager Glynnis Nakai, the goose we saw has been a resident of the ponds for a few years. “Somebody raised it, and it showed up a couple years ago,” she said. “It’s domestic. It was either dropped off or it came in on its own.”
And then we breathed a sigh of relief–until we realized that somewhere, on Maui, there exists right now a goose (or possibly duck) that’s allegedly capable of swift, blinding violence…
Photo: Forest & Kim Starr/Wikimedia Commons