Will this be the final spring for York’s Goose family?

Geese and their babys
Hold the door, please…
Geese and their babys
… I think the car is that way…
Geese and their babys
…teaching the kids safety first…
a man taking a picture of Geese and their babys
… smile, kids, we’re in YFile
Geese and their babys in a pond
… taking the first swim.

What could be the final spring procession of a Canada goose mating pair from the enclosed courtyard in the East Office Building (EOB) on York’s Keele campus came off without a flutterTuesday.

After receiving notice that their usual accommodation at the pond in the Michael G. Boyer Woodlot was ready to receive them, the pair and three youngsters were herded out of their confinement and through the offices of University Information Technology (UIT). Gander, goose and goslings ambled their way through the EOB’s north exit and turned east through the parking lot under the watchful eye of David Timmins, coordinator, CCTV & door access technology for York Security Services, who held a black jacket up to calm them and direct their progress.

The Family Goose didn’t seem to need directions, however, and made their way calmly along a pathway before turning right and entering the water. At one point, it was suggested the family had taken the wrong path to the water, but it quickly became apparent that it was their human overseers who got it wrong. The goslings took to the water easily and the five new residents of the pond glided deeper into the woodlot and safety.

“They know the way,” said Dragan Spasojevic, manager, community relations & crime prevention. “They do this every year.”

But whether the geese will have one more spring in the EOB courtyard is an open question. With the building slated for demolition to make way for the Pan Am Games Athletics facility sometime in 2012, it will be up to the project planners to determine if there will be another generation of EOB geese.

Chris Wong, director, transportation & master planning for York University Development Corporation, said it’s too soon to tell when the Chateau Goose will be torn down to make way for the new stadium as plans still have to receive proper approvals. With construction taking up to 18 months and the first events set for 2014, however, he said the last days for the EOB will be sometime in 2012, possibly after the spring mating season.

Canada goose (Branta canadensis) pairs mate for life and return to their breeding grounds annually, so it’s likely that this pair or their replacements have been spending their springs in the EOB courtyard for the past four years. (See YFile, May 10, 2010.)

Bridget Stutchbury, biology professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering and an expert in bird migration, said geese often live more than 10 years in the wild and will replace a partner if one dies. “The other [surviving partner] already knows the routine and can lead the way,” Stutchbury said. “After a number of years, the original pair may no longer be alive but the tradition has been passed on to their replacements.”

The first of the goslings hatched on May 3 (see UIT’s goosecam video) and the family were given a week to themselves before their eviction. After spending some time acclimatizing their youngsters to life on the outside, the EOB geese will make their way over to Stong Pond where much of York’s goose population hangs out.

By David Fuller, YFile contributing writer