- The Washington Times - Friday, June 8, 2001

Federal, state and Montgomery County authorities are searching for whoever cut the heads off at least two geese, one of which was dumped onto the doorstep of an outspoken animal lover in Montgomery Village.

A national animal-protection group has offered a $2,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the killer and is urging the public to help before another animal — or a human — is harmed.

"To maliciously wound or kill an innocent animal is the act of a very disturbed person," said John Hadidian, director of the Urban Wildlife Program for the Humane Society of the United States. "The person or persons who committed these heinous acts pose a potential threat to other animals and people in the community."

The first decapitated goose was found May 31. Jane Wilder said her husband found the headless carcass on their town house doorstep around 7 a.m. The animal was believed to have been killed on a bridge across the pond behind her home where blood spatters were found, she said.

The Wilders are members of Friends of Montgomery Village Wildlife, which as recently as Wednesday has met to fine-tune a proposal they hope will keep peace between dozens of Canada geese and some residents who view the large birds as noisy foulers of lawns and sidewalks, not as a bonus of living in a community planned around lakes.

Mrs. Wilder said she believes the dead geese are tied to an altercation she had three days before the dead bird appeared on her doorstep.

On the evening of May 28, some people who were allowing their spaniel to chase geese in the pond behind Mrs. Wilder´s home became angry when she insisted they leash the dog. She also called their attention to a sign warning that dogs were not allowed to run free in Montgomery County.

"A patrolman (later) said I shouldn´t have said anything, but if I had done that, the baby geese would have been dead," Mrs. Wilder said.

About 9:30 p.m., the group of adults with the dog stopped on the path behind Mrs. Wilder´s patio and made taunting remarks. She said one woman physically threatened her.

On June 2, two more headless geese were discovered.

Surgical gloves were found near the body of one goose in the park near the Wilders´ residence, Mrs. Wilder said, adding that another headless goose was found close to the site of the altercation. Investigators have said that goose may have been the victim of a snapping turtle, but Mrs. Wilder said more surgical gloves have been found in the lake near her house.

The police division of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources is leading the investigation, in which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is cooperating because Canada geese are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The goose killings are misdemeanors; after Oct. 1, a new state law makes such offenses felonies, similar to regulations in 31 other states. The killer can face up to three years in prison, a $5,000 fine and psychological counseling under current state law. Federal penalties could add six months in jail and fines of $15,000 for each act.

Maryland Natural Resources Police said they are investigating a potential link between her encounter with the dog owners and the decapitation of the geese.

Although some of the large birds seem almost domesticated and regularly can be seen grazing the narrow median strip as cars buzz along busy Montgomery Village Avenue, mature geese like those killed are usually hard to catch.

"It had to be a gang, and I think that they were baiting them. It´s likely the geese were with babies that they wouldn´t leave," Mrs. Wilder said.

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