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Christmas geese and llama gain shelter

Forest Grove women stage a goose roundup, then rescue a wayward llama
by: Courtesy photo Forest Grove resident Ellen Fiscus helped corral Tuxedo the llama on Dec. 25, and she teamed up with several others to rescue some domestic geese at Fernhill Wetlands Dec. 23.

Walkers through Fernhill Wetlands become familiar with birds that make the area their home. Snowy egrets, great blue herons, bald eagles, Canada geese and several families of ducks are permanent residents.

But on Sunday, Dec. 18, it was easy for Ellen Fiscus and Jennifer Yocum of Forest Grove to see that a certain flock of geese didn't quite belong there.

'They were quite aggressive, probably due to hunger,' Fiscus said. 'They rushed us, honking really loudly [and] looking for food.

'I could see that the geese could have become really scary to the children who visit the area with their families.'

Fiscus, who raises chickens in her back yard in town, posted pictures of the geese on an online poultry site, backyardchickens.com.

The geese turned out to be Chinese browns (or greys), which are raised for meat, eggs and as guards. Fiscus posted a request for someone to adopt the birds.

'That's when Kathleen (Kitty) Leone responded,' Fiscus said. 'She has acreage in Colton, Ore., with a small pond that she will be enlarging this spring and appropriate shelter in the meantime.'

Fiscus then got on the phone with Eric Brattain of Friends of Fernhill, the Audubon Society, Clean Water Services officials and Forest Grove Mayor Pete Truax 'to make sure it would be OK to remove the birds.'

The date for the Great Christmas Goose Rodeo Roundup was set for Friday, Dec. 23.

Romy and Cathie Thompson of Mulino, Ore., teamed up with Leone and her mother, Dori Callaway, to bring their truck, a large animal crate and flexible wire fencing to create a temporary corral for the geese.

They joined Fiscus, Yocum and Dan Wilson-Fey, pastor of the Forest Grove United Methodist Church, at Fernhill Wetlands.

After several false starts, a lot of patience, a loaf and a half of bread and generous handfuls of cracked corn, the geese were eventually lured into the corral and led into the crate with no harm done and a lot of happy smiles.

'The geese wound up with a new home for Christmas and none of them were on the dinner table,' observed Yocum, pastor of the United Church of Christ in Forest Grove.

Llama mamas

But Yocum and Fiscus were not yet done with their Christmas week animal rescue operations. Just around noon on Sunday, Dec. 25, Yocum looked out her front window to see a llama running up Hawthorne Street in Old Town Forest Grove.

'Ellen said to call 9-1-1 and grab a bag of chicken feed,' Yocum noted. 'We went tearing off down the street.'

They were not alone, as several astonished neighbors followed on foot and by car. The residents and Forest Grove Police formed a human barricade, this time at 18th Avenue and Hawthorne, where the llama ran straight into Yocum's arms.

'I have no idea why he seemed to adopt me,' Yocum said, 'but I got a lot of llama kisses on Christmas Day.'

The animal spent a brief vacation in the back yard of Kim Allen of Forest Grove and was home in time for Christmas dinner with her rightful owners on Stringtown Road later the same afternoon.

Kurt Kopp said Tuesday he was happy to have his errant male llama, Tuxedo, back home safe and sound.

The animal, who lost his mate about a month ago, had gotten loose at least once before, Kopp said, owing to a loose gate and a possible broken heart.

'He pushed the gate open and got out last week, too,' noted Kopp, adding that Tuxedo 'usually comes right back.'

In Sunday's caper, Tuxedo wandered past Hines Nursery on Southwest Ritchen Road, trotted toward Forest View Cemetery and headed into Old Town via B Street.

He eventually wound up on Hawthorne Street, where he was intercepted by Yocum and Fiscus.

Kopp was blissfully unaware of the missing camelid until a Washington County Sheriff's Office deputy stopped by his place a few hours later. 'I went right over and picked him up,' Kopp said. 'Now we have a chain around that gate.'

Meaning beyond mistletoe

For Yocum and Fiscus, the week held meaning beyond mistletoe and mangers.

Becoming good Samaritans to two different species in the space of two days wasn't on their Christmas wish list. Still, the rescue endeavors brought the women extra measures of Yuletide joy.

'As a dear friend put it,' noted Fiscus, 'Life gives us focus in unexpected ways.'

- Associate editor Nancy Townsley contributed to this story, but it was mostly written by Rev. Jennifer Yocum, animal lover, former journalist and pastor of the United Church of Christ in Forest Grove.