RUMFORD — Through Wednesday afternoon's snowstorm and falling temperatures, “Henry,” an injured Canada goose, stood on the edge of a snow-covered ice floe in the Androscoggin River.
He watched about 60 mallard buddies clustered around him between Pennacook Falls Dam and its spillway behind the town Information Center.
A broken right wing has kept the goose from migrating, and his speedy reflexes have prevented locals or Maine game wardens from moving Henry to a wildlife rehabilitator or the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray.
Unable to retrieve Henry, Alan and his girlfriend, Annette Pratt of Mexico, and others decided to feed the goose after researching its nutritional needs.
“We contacted several bird people when we first started taking care of him in 2009,” Alan Pratt said Wednesday. “They all told us that they aren't allowed to go catch them but can take them if someone else catches them. The Gray wild animal farm also told us the same thing.”
“So, since he has been there two winters and there are so many people that care for him, he would be really missed,” Pratt said. "We figured we would let nature take its course, but at the same time, do what we can for him.”
Pratt and his girlfriend Annette try to feed Henry twice a day, despite town signs telling visitors to J. Eugene Boivin Park and the Information Center not to feed the wildlife.
In Maine, it's not illegal to feed wild ducks or geese, according to an e-mail Wednesday from Brad Allen, head of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife's Bird Group.
He said towns, however, may have ordinances against it. Rumford doesn't.
“The signs were posted to prevent people from feeding the geese, which were leaving large amounts of feces in Boivin Park,” Town Manager Carlo Puiia said.
The Pratts, however, said the signs were posted to “try and get rid of Henry” and a flock of 20 to 30 Canada geese that arrived in late June 2009.
By mid-August, town officials were trying to scare the geese off, according to meeting minutes.
“The town did everything they could to get rid of them, but, you know, geese are geese,” Pratt said. “They're going to take off when they want to.”
Come September 2009, the flock left without Henry.
“The geese used to come into the parking lot and kids driving cars would chase them, and they killed one and broke Henry's wing,” Alan Pratt said. “So when (the flock) got ready to leave, he couldn't go with them, and so we happened to notice that and started giving him a hand, because he can't leave.”
They also began feeding about 100 mallards that live along the river and canal system and cluster around Henry. They know that the goose is their “golden egg,” having attuned themselves to the Pratts' Hyundai. They know its engine noises and the horn that Alan Pratt honks when he arrives to alert Henry that breakfast or dinner is served.
Every duck suddenly erupts into flight, making a beeline for the Hyundai.
At first, Henry ran for the car, but he doesn't anymore because he can't compete with the ducks for food, Pratt said.
That's why Annette — known locally as “Momma Goose” — feeds and talks to the ducks on one side of the car, while Alan takes a bag of feed and walks toward Henry. He said Henry, who Annette named after an uncle, usually meets him halfway when he's hungry.
Otherwise, like on Wednesday afternoon, he doesn't budge.
Since they've started feeding Henry and the ducks, tourists from around the world have learned of it and come to see them, the Pratts said.
“They're absolutely amazed with the wildlife in this area, and this town should start paying attention to it instead of trying to get rid of it,” Alan Pratt said.