BUFFALO - Now that a brood of seven goslings has hatched at a Buffalo cemetery, a deer that stood guard over their expectant single mother for weeks is beginning to wander off, a wildlife official said on Thursday.
One of the most dramatic moments in this animal kingdom saga came the day before the eggs hatched on Wednesday, when the storied stag chased off crows threatening the goose nesting on a large urn at Forest Lawn cemetery.
"The deer was acting pretty much like the gander," said Erie County SPCA Wildlife Administrator Joel Thomas.
"Crows are big predators of baby birds. (The babies) are pretty defenseless and the deer was obviously chasing the crows away."
For three weeks, a Webcam has broadcast images of the buck watching over the soon-to-be mother goose that lost her gander. For weeks, the male white-tailed deer had consistently worked to discourage any visitors or passing vehicles from coming near the nesting Canada goose, positioning his body broadside and staring until the threat passed.
While experts have called the buck's behavior highly unusual, examples of similar co-existence in nature do sometimes crop up, Thomas said.
"This is really kind of a special socialization between these two animals and we're all still sort of scratching our heads," he said.
Just hours after the first little beak cracked through its eggshell, the mother goose hustled her babies out of the urn on their first walk around the grounds on Wednesday afternoon. As the family paraded by, the deer watched from a nearby hillside, apparently recognizing the fruits of his labor.
With the goslings comes a change in the adult animals' relationship, Thomas said.
"The last time I saw him he was pretty much beginning to wander more," Thomas said. "I see this bond diminishing now that the chicks are with Mom."
A cemetery spokesmen said the deer has lived for several years at the 269-acre cemetery, which was founded in 1849 and is home to some 160,000 plots, including those of captains of industry and President Millard Filmore.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)