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Sullivan’s Pond geese take an early winter time-out after reported aggressive behaviour

WATCH: Sullivan's Pond geese sent to winter home a month early for bad behaviour.

Sullivan’s Pond felt a little empty Monday morning, as the Dartmouth pond’s nine famous geese were herded into a vehicle by staff with the Hope for Wildlife rehabilitation centre.

The request came from the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), who asked that the waterfowl be returned to their winter home a little early this year after concerns have been raised about the geese acting aggressively.

“I had been hearing a few more reports this year, that the geese had been coming up to people more aggressively,” said Hope Swinimer, founder and director of Hope for Wildlife.

The group is contracted by HRM to tend to the geese and provide a temporary home during the winter months.

READ MORE: Large group of American birds swept into Nova Scotia by hurricane Dorian

On Oct. 25, an 87-year-old woman was taken to a local hospital where she remains in care after her family said she was attacked by the geese during a walk along the trail at Sullivan’s Pond.

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The attack caused the woman to fall and break her pelvis and elbow.

This incident prompted HRM officials to ask Hope for Wildlife to pick the geese up early Monday morning.

HRM introduced four new geese at Sullivan’s Pond this spring and Swinimer believes this was the root of the problem.

“I attribute that [aggressiveness] to the fact that the city added four new geese to the group,” she said. “And it was very clear while unloading them and it’s very clear among the group that there is one leader.”

Merle Gracie walks through trails in Sullivans Pond daily and said she had a run-in with a goose and believes it was the alpha male or “lead goose” that was being the aggressive one, and says she was bitten in the leg this summer.

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“I was kind of surprised,” Gracie said, pointing to the location where it happened near the musical grandstand.

“I thought, well, these geese or the goose is over there and I’m over here but honestly she didn’t really move, but she was able to extend her neck long enough to nip me.”

Gracie said the bite didn’t hurt or break the skin. She had a pair of shorts on, but it was enough to startle her.

READ MORE: Sullivan’s Pond geese return home after spending winter at Hope for Wildlife

Swinimer believes the geese are looking at pedestrians for food, and even though there’s a bylaw against feeding the waterfowl, she believes they’re being fed.

Others like Gracie say they see people feeding the geese and ducks, and it might be a factor in the geese becoming more aggressive.

“If they know people come with food, every person that comes in, and if they’re hungry, they are going to approach to see if they can get a snack,” said Swinimer.

HRM councillor Sam Austin said it’s too soon to determine what HRM will do with the geese, but said they will be assessed for their aggressive behaviour this winter before determining what can be done with the geese come spring.

“The pond needs to be a safe spot for everyone and the unfortunate incident that happened last week, you have to take that into account,” said Austin.

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He anticipates, however, that the geese will return after the winter.