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Geese stuck in drought-depleted California pond are rescued

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A group of about 50 flightless geese stranded at a California pond became easy prey for foxes and coyotes when drought conditions dried their watery home, but they have been rescued and sent to new homes, organizers of the effort said on Wednesday.

The geese, whose desiccated pond was between an interstate highway and a row of industrial buildings, were in desperate straights in the town of Woodland near Sacramento, said Jennifer Gordon, director of Carolina Waterfowl Rescue.

"Everything that eats meat in the wild was snacking on those geese," said Gordon, who added that she witnessed a fox preying on the geese on Monday before her group could reach the birds.

"If they were wild birds, they would have flown off and found another pond,” she said.

A small group of domesticated geese were abandoned at the pond about 20 years ago, and their numbers grew over time through inbreeding, which burdened the animals with some health problems, said Woodland Public Works Director Greg Meyer, whose department was involved in the rescue.

California's 3-year-old drought, in addition to robbing the geese of their sanctuary, has dried up lakes and rivers in many parts of the state, as well as heightening the wildfire risk and depleting reservoirs.

In response to the drying of the pond, Gordon and two other members of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Carolina Waterfowl Rescue boarded a flight to California to take part in a rescue operation in the longest trip they have ever undertaken for such a roundup.

On the flight out from North Carolina, they brought along a homemade trap made of PVC pipe and plastic fencing - equipment they normally use to rescue birds, Gordon said.

On Tuesday, the Carolina Waterfowl Rescue members joined a group of about a dozen others to set up the trap and herd the geese into it, Meyer said. Several city workers took part in the roundup.

It only took 15 minutes to round up all the birds, as participants formed a large semicircle and shepherded the geese into an enclosure, Gordon said.

Once the geese were placed in kennels, they were separated into three groups and driven in vans to new homes in Santa Cruz, Orland and Bakersfield, she said.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Eric Beech)

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