The Death of a Single Snow Goose

Posted Apr. 15th, 2021 by Daniel J. Cox

The Death of a Single Snow Goose was first published on our Natural Exposures Facebook page. I decided to bring it to the blog, since a huge part of this image is the backstory. Unfortunately, Twitter and Instagram don’t allow for the amount of text to tell that story, so I’ve posted it here for our followers. The text below the image is what appeared with the original post to Facebook.

A single lone snow goose lies peacefully in the wheat stubble of a northern Montana field.

The Backstory from Facebook

Nature is not always sunrises, sunsets, and paisley clouds. One of the aspects I enjoy most about being a nature photographer is its ability to snap me back to reality. When you spend a lot of time with animals you become acutely aware of how easy we humans have it.

This beautiful snow goose died right before my eyes last month in northern Montana. There was initially a huge flock feeding in this field of harvested wheat. As I approached, the group took flight by the thousands, except for this lone individual. At first I was excited. There right before me was a single majestic looking subject. It was an opportunity to see the individual separated from the crowd. But it soon became obvious that something wasn’t right. I stayed back at about 50 yards and analyzed the situation. He was initially standing but shaky. He wobbled side to side and I could see his determination to not give in to the gravity tugging him down. Within minutes his legs gave way and he dropped to the soil beneath his feet.

I wanted to help. I got on my cell phone and called a local vet, explained the situation, and was promised a call back. They needed to get the OK from US Fish & Wildlife Service, since a snow goose is a federally protected migratory bird. There are strict laws on how these birds must be treated, even when they’re dying. Unfortunately whatever caused his death did so quickly. Within 10 minutes of my call to the vet this beautiful creature gave out a tiny little honk as his head shot back and to the side where it came to rest just over his right wing. It all ended that quickly.

I know many will not stop to view this image. Most folks have no interest in seeing anything but a Disney fairytale. So be it. Others will take the time to study and reflect on not just the image but the story of how it happened. Then there are others who will think I’m flat out nuts! You care about one bird out of a flock of several thousand that are part of a species numbering as high as 15 million? There’s so many snow geese they actually have hunting seasons on them in the spring. But this was not about the numbers. It was about the individual. An individual goose in need that succumbed to the circle of life in the wheat fields of northern Montana. This image was shot with the Micro Four Thirds Lumix G9 with the Leica 12-60mm zoom.

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There are 9 comments on this post…
  1. Peter SimpsonOn May. 25th, 2021

    Thanks very much Daniel, much appreciated. I do hope your father can recover his health and, of course, caring for him must come ahead of updating the blog.

    Best wishes, Peter

  2. Peter SimpsonOn May. 23rd, 2021

    Hi Daniel,

    I regularly visit your blog to look for your 150-400 review but find myself increasingly hesitant to come now because of the snow goose blog entry. It’s a great, visceral, image, very impactful and represents a real truth about nature and wildlife.

    I’m not squeamish about the natural world, but after seeing this image most days for the last month, I now find it hurtful and wonder whether it may be time for another blog entry so that the snow goose is no longer front and centre?

    What do you think?

    Best wishes, Peter

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 23rd, 2021

      Not a un-reasonable request. I’ll see if I can come up with a new blog post sometime soon. Sorry to have disappointed you but I’ve been busy with a very sick father.

  3. Peter VluttersOn May. 16th, 2021

    That too is nature !

    When I am on my way here in the Austrian Alps ??it always gives me a good feeling of being connected to it.

    Seeing those Massive Mountains makes me modest because it shows how tiny and meaningless a single man is…

    And being confrontated with dead or dying animals makes you realise that our time is limited and we should respectfully enjoy that time….

    There is a Slogan of the Swiss Watchmaker Patek Phillipe that says

    You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation”

    That same applies to the planet Earth?

    We’re just by-passers, be modest ❗️

    This photo is a good reminder….

    Thanks Dan ?

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn May. 16th, 2021

      Thank you for your insight and wisdom Peter.

  4. DavidOn Apr. 20th, 2021

    Nature has her harsh, unforgiving side. A few of my friends would skip this story for that “Disney” ending instead. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Denis RTOn Apr. 19th, 2021

    Death in nature is something that happens every single second even from natural causes. Its always sad. But sometimes we just cant help. At least lets hope (and help) that the populations of all species will remain stable in size.

  6. woody MeristemOn Apr. 16th, 2021

    Sounds like it may have died of lead poisoning — not from being shot, but from ingesting lead shot as it fed. Some enlightened states have or are beginning to ban the use of ammunition containing lead. As for the rest of the states, well …

  7. Mircea BlanaruOn Apr. 16th, 2021

    I was feeding sparrows for tens of years at my window when I’ve encountered a similar situation with a young male sparrow who was feeling bad, I took him to the closest vet lab, the doctor there made him an injection with vitamins and told me to keep it warm, near a heater (it was in a February) in my room. I remember he died watching at me near the heater and I felt the same incredible sadness as I felt when a decade later my father died… It is good in this situation to watch a film like Star Wars III, the Revenge of the Sith, to be aware not to fall on the dark side…. Or better to read the Bible, the entire New Testament with the incredible wisdoms narrated by the Old Saint Apostles…

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