The Gift of the Christmas Goose

Jessie plucks the feathers first.

Jessie plucks the feathers first.

by Wendy Spencer, Director of Animal Care
Wolf Haven International

While many of us are eating Christmas dinner with family and friends, the wolves at the sanctuary enjoy a holiday feast of their own- a fully feathered Christmas goose! It started a few years ago when we received a call from a USDA Wildlife Services agent who had taken our Wildlife Handling course. His agency culled hundreds of Canadian geese in the Seattle area and wanted to know if we would be interested in some for the wolves.

We had never given the wolves geese before. They did, though, have experience with fully feathered chickens so we thought that surely they would enjoy the geese as well.  And boy were we right! As a result, for the past several years, Wildlife Services brings us enough geese for each animal (approx. 50), and this has become the traditional Christmas dinner.

Siri rolls on her goose.

Siri rolls on her goose.

Because the wolves only get a goose once a year, it remains a novelty to them, so each Christmas it is like they are getting it for the first time. It often takes them a while to figure out what to do with their goose. For some, there is no hesitation- they get right down to business and set about plucking feathers in order to get to the breast meat. Others are in such a rush that they have not time for plucking, they just start eating, even if it means a mouthful of feathers. A few of the wolves will lick their goose from head to toe, like a giant waterfowl-flavored Popsicle, and others cache theirs, perhaps while they try and figure out what to do with it.

See (and hear) the Video of Riley & Siri with their geese HERE.

The most common reaction that we see is rolling. Almost all the wolves will initially roll on their goose- and not just once, but over and over and over until they are covered in “eau de goose.” A few of our more dominant wolves – Jaque in particular- prefer to let their geese marinate, so they will urinate on it. She will go so far as to steal her mate Spruce’s goose and pee on it as well before letting him have it back (but only AFTER she is done with it). Riley seems to think his is a giant stuffy, so he will often toss his around in the air and bat it around with his big clown feet.

Mehina and her goose.

Mehina and her goose.

This year we had several wolves enjoying their first Christmas with us, and reactions to the geese ran the gamut. But by far, Samantha was the most comical. She pretty much did all of the above, but in addition, for days following the feast, she had goose guts stuck to her scruff and all down the length of her body from rolling so much. Being one of our most food motivated wolves, she is usually front and center whenever Animal Care staff is present (lest she miss out on food), but after the goose feeding, there she stood, in her pile of feathers guarding her precious remains, not willing to risk losing any part of her Christmas dinner to enclosure mate, Bart.

We are now into the second week of January and Animal Care is still cleaning goose feathers out of the enclosures- a sign that indeed, the wolves enjoyed their Christmas geese.

Wendy Spencer

Director of Animal Care
Wolf Haven International
Phone: 360.264.4695 x218

7 replies
  1. Wanda Tucker
    Wanda Tucker says:

    This story did my heart good!! I am a wolf lover trapped behind a computer for a few months until my surgeries are done – after that I will be as physical as humanly possible to keep all wolves safe & protected! So cool of Seattle to offer these geese, truly made my holidays! Thanks for all you do!

  2. Savannah's Paw Tracks
    Savannah's Paw Tracks says:

    What fun! I loved their turkey meal at Thanksgiving too. This is my blog, Savannah’s Paw Tracks. My name is Linda Rodgers and my husband is Peter Wilson. We have been donating to Wolf Haven for years and you were our selected Christmas, end of year, donation this year. I believe Peter spoke directly with the Development person. We do hope to visit this Spring. We have been twice before…many years ago. And somewhere there are three bricks/cement pavers with our beloved Siberian Huskies names one them: Mischa, Crusty and Rose. WE love WH!!

    • Wolf Haven International
      Wolf Haven International says:

      Yes, our Director of Development, Patt Poinsett, says “Yup – had a great conversation with Peter. They are going to call before their visit.”

  3. rmudge
    rmudge says:

    What a nice treat for the wolves! They seem to be enjoying it from the photos. It is funny that they roll on them. That is something a cat would do 🙂

  4. Nylabluesmum
    Nylabluesmum says:

    Very very cool!! I think it is lovely that the wolves get a Christmas Goose!
    Wolves are such lovely creatures & need to be protected & treated with respect.
    Thank you for sharing your story with us.
    Sincerely, Sherri-Ellen T-D.

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