MILLINGTON, New Jersey — A Canada goose with a hunter's 26-inch (66-centimeter) arrow sticking out of its chest picked the right place to land.
"This is a smart goose," said Bernard Levine, the retired veterinarian in whose Toms River, New Jersey, backyard the wounded bird showed up a few weeks ago. "He happened to come into the yard of a veterinarian that could take care of him."
So Levine, 82, fed the goose, helped capture it, performed lifesaving surgery and transported it to the state's largest bird rehabilitation facility, The Raptor Trust.
All patched up after a three-week stay at The Raptor Trust, the goose was released last week into a stream in a wooded area on the trust's property with Levine witnessing the payoff for his kindness.
"It feels great to see him free and liberated, enjoying life the way a goose should," Levine said, as the goose preened and waded downstream.
Levine, working at the Toms River Animal Hospital he founded in 1955, removed 6 inches (15 centimeters)of the arrow lodged in the bird's flesh, as well as several pellets from an air rifle. Levine said he hunted ducks and geese 30 years ago but a change of heart also changed his mind about the sport.
"With the encroaching civilization and the loss of a lot of habitat, these birds are pressed for survival," Levine said. "I'd rather not shoot and kill them. I'd rather feed them and sponsor their lives."
The goose, which weighed 8 pounds (3.6 kilograms) after rescue, weighed 12 pounds (5.4 kilograms) at its last weigh-in before it was released. Raptor Trust veterinary technician Kristi Ward said the sex and age of the bird were not determined.
New Jersey wildlife management regulations don't permit hunting waterfowl with arrows like the one removed from the goose.
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