Don Grosche says some people call him "The Goose Man." If they do, it's for good reason.
Most days, Grosche's yard, nestled on the bank of the Mouse River at the edge of Oak Park in northwest Minot, is rife with web-footed visitors.
"They come and they go," Grosche said. "They're usually here in the morning."
Dave Caldwell/MDN •
Canada geese forage for food in Oak Park Thursday, just across the river from Don Grosche’s house. Grosche feeds the birds during nesting season and also tries to protect them from people who try to injure them.
Dave Caldwell/MDN •
Don Grosche of Minot stands by a goose nest Thursday in his backyard near Oak Park. Grosche said that geese have used the nest for the past four or five years.
And when they leave, there's no doubt they've been there feathers and quite a few droppings are enough evidence to convict. But Grosche hardly thinks of the big birds as trespassers, despite what they leave behind.
"They don't bother me any," Grosche said with a smile, motioning to his trusty garden hose which is standing by to water his tomatoes among other duties. "I turn the water on and wash it away."
Grosche is truly a friend of the geese, whether they're able to comprehend it or not. He feeds them on occasion as well as taking it upon himself to defend the birds at times when people harass them. He said that sometimes kids like to chase the geese with sticks.
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"The geese don't run away from them because they're looking for feed," Grosche said. "That's how they get broken wings and whatnot. And a lot of times when the kids are chasing them, the parents are walking with the kid and laughing about it.
"It's a pitiful looking sight. Just unbelievable."
Grosche said that the geese aren't bothered by predators.
"Just raccoons," he said slyly. "They don't try to get after the geese. Just the garden vegetables."
He paused with a half-mischievous, half-pensive look on his face.
"I don't know if a raccoon would bother a goose," he said.
Grosche has several wood duck nests on trees in his back yard, as well as one tub-shaped goose nest atop a pole at the river's edge.
"They nest all along the riverbank there," Grosche said from his back yard Thursday, pointing at the river.
He talked about the mother goose that most recently occupied the nest.
"She had five this year in the nest," Grosche said. "For the last four or five years I've had geese nesting in that nest. That's why I put up a 'No Trespassing' sign out there (at the edge of the yard by Fourth Avenue), so the kids don't come in and molest them while they're setting. "
He said he only feeds them during the nesting season, although he says wildlife officials recommend against it.
"They don't want you feeding the birds at all," he said. "But I do feed them when they're nesting.
"When that goose is nesting, she doesn't have much time to go out and get something to eat. When they have their little goslings, they're on their own then.
"You can't feed them after that or you'd have so many geese you wouldn't know what to do."
Grosche said visitors to Oak Park walk the path and feed the geese, but invariably, the birds return to his back yard.
"They're smart birds," he said. "They know where their bread and butter is at."
Even with all his experience, Grosche said he can't identify any individual birds. "Only if they're crippled or something," he said. "They pretty much all look alike."