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Duluth goose on thin ice was wearing thick ice

Ice had formed on the neck collar of this Canada goose, which later was rescued from the ice of Superior Bay in the Duluth-Superior harbor on Saturday. (Photo by Darin Bainter)

DULUTH -- The goose wore a bulging necklace of ice.

The bird was exhausted, sitting on the ice of Superior Bay about

30 to 40 yards off Rice's Point beneath the Blatnik Bridge on Saturday morning.

"It was horrible," said Randy Hanzal, a conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. "The ice block was so big he couldn't lift his head off the ice."

A photographer, Darin Bainter of Superior, had called Hanzal that morning to tell him about the hapless Canada goose. Hanzal responded, but he didn't think the ice on the harbor looked safe. The bird was under an old wooden pier near the Blatnik Bridge.

Hanzal and Bainter tried a lassoing effort with a rope and a rock, Hanzal said. They also tried reaching the goose with a long piece of PVC pipe. Neither method was successful.

It looked as if this goose was cooked.

"I was walking off the bridge to get my gun to put him out of his misery," Hanzal said. "Then I see some fool walking out on the ice in a yellow Gumby suit."

That would have been Dan Lattner, a captain of the Rescue Unit of the Duluth Fire Department. Lattner, wearing a cold-water survival suit, was out looking for some bad ice. He and firefighter Dave Torgerson and fire equipment operator Carmine Langlois wanted to try out a new rescue sled.

The goose had a band around its neck, said Lattner, 36.

"There was a rather large chunk of ice that had built up on that band," Lattner said. "It was almost the size of a smaller dinner plate."

Lattner walked and belly-crawled across the ice to sneak up behind the goose.

"I planted my hands over his wings and picked him up and tucked him under my arm like a football," Lattner said. "I was holding his head up with my other hand."

He walked the bird to shore. The bird seemed too tired to put up a fuss, Lattner said. The firefighters put the goose in a portable dog kennel provided by Hanzal and returned to the downtown fire hall.

There, they used snips to cut off the tag and the ice. They gave the goose water and oatmeal and let it recover in the kennel for a couple of hours. Later that afternoon, they released it on the beach of Lake Superior near Endion Station.

"By that time, he was hissing. He had life back in him," Lattner said. "We let him out, and he swam away."

The goose was wearing a standard U.S. Fish and Wildlife neck collar, said Rich Staffon, DNR area wildlife manager at Cloquet. The bands are made of a PVC-like material, he said.

It's uncommon for the collars to form ice, but it does happen on occasion, Staffon said.

"This goose is hanging around much later than other ones," he said. "I assume that's the problem. I'm thinking maybe this one was injured enough that it couldn't fly and hadn't migrated for that reason."

The goose also wore a Fish and Wildlife leg band, Staffon said.