When a pair of geese made their home near a small pond in southwest Lincoln, John Davis was there to greet them.
The 13-year-old would visit almost every day this spring, bread crumbs and tortilla pieces in hand.
“Eventually, they recognized him,” his mother, Cheryl, said Thursday. “And they’d come out of the bank and eat out of his hand.”
The geese had the pond to themselves, and they were territorial. The mallards who tried sharing the water didn’t last long, she said, and the male goose once ran off a turkey. But they would often be there waiting for their new friend’s visits.
After the female laid her eggs, her mate would swim across to meet John first, but the female would later join them, too, waiting to be fed.
“It was a fun story,” his mother said. “It was something that was unique.”
But Wednesday night, her son saw a 10/11 News headline: Animal Control officers were investigating the apparent shooting death of a female goose, and the pond looked familiar.
Animal Control learned about the shooting from the TV station, too, said Scott Lowry, the department’s field supervisor. A neighbor had sent the station video of its aftermath — what appeared to be two teens leaving the area Sunday evening, one of them carrying some type of rifle.
The station contacted Animal Control, and officers started their investigation Monday.
They found the dead goose in the pond near 21st Street and Pine Lake Road, with an apparent wound in her head. They found a nest with seven eggs, one of them in the process of hatching but all of them now nonviable.
A necropsy at the Nebraska Veterinary Diagnostic Center on the UNL East Campus indicated the bird likely died from a BB-like projectile, though it wasn’t recovered.
“We were concerned about the fact we have an individual who was willing to kill a nesting migratory bird,” Lowry said. “We view the crime as pretty heinous and pretty cold-blooded.”
Animal Control officers believe they’ve identified a pair of juveniles responsible, and hope to end the investigation next week, he said.
The department’s officers would be limited to issuing misdemeanor animal cruelty citations, though a prosecutor could decide to pursue felony charges, based on the circumstances, Lowry said.
It’s unclear how many cruelty cases Animal Control investigates annually: The department’s database combines those with the more common animal neglect cases, and they can’t separate the two types, said manager Steve Beal.
Combined, the two accounted for 567 reports between April 2021 and April 2020, down from about 800 the year before that, and about 900 the year before that.
But cases this serious are relatively rare, Lowry said.
“Cruelty cases where we have something that’s occurring where it’s extremely heinous, we may see three or four of those a year.”
And they investigate even fewer cases — maybe one a year, if that — of people shooting animals in the city, Lowry said.
“It shows a person’s willingness; it shows a bit of coldness to their character. I’d like to think the average person wouldn’t do this.”
Back near the pond, Cheryl Davis described her son as more angry than sad. “He is upset. It’s not something he understands, even remotely.”
And the male goose was staying in the water.
“He’s at the nest, but he won’t come to us.”
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