Geese get help in negotiating Richmond Road traffic

ctruman@herald-leader.comMay 10, 2014 

Cindy Sutton-Hargett strides into the middle of Richmond Road mid-Thursday morning, her silver hair blowing in the breeze, clad in a lime-green T-shirt and purple sneakers, waving her arms at oncoming traffic.

"They're trying to cross!" she yells at a blue minivan as it speeds toward her.

"They" is a picturesque little family: two grown geese and their three fuzzy waddling goslings, all yellow fluff and baby squawks, making the odyssey from the pool in front of Southland Christian Church and Applebee's on one side to the reservoir next to Kentucky American Water on the other.

The minivan barrels past Hargett. She hurls a well-chosen but unprintable word in the driver's direction and retreats, along with the goose family, back to the Southland Christian Church side of the road.

Sutton-Hargett, a pet sitter and lifelong animal lover, understands that the traffic must move. But she says the fowl also have rights: to not be run off from their longtime home, to not be crushed, and most of all to show their babies how to live.

"From a mom and dad's point of view, this is like kindergarten and elementary school," said Sutton-Hargett, 57. "It's just part of their migratory instinct. We shouldn't try to change it."

Over the next hour, the geese will attempt to negotiate Richmond Road several more times — pushing forward a bit, then falling back.

Later, the Lexington police department will place a call to Lexington-Fayette Animal Care and Control, and a car will be dispatched in case the geese find themselves in distress and need some human protection.

"If baby ducks need a little push, we will go out there," said Capt. Tim Mitchell of animal care. "A lot of times we can go out there and slow traffic down and get the critters across."

Sutton-Hargett would like more prominent signs in the area where the geese cross. One sign that's already there is too close to New Circle Road, she said, and another near Kentucky-American is difficult to spot unless you're looking for it.

Bigger, bolder signs and maybe a flashing light alerting drivers to the area's wildlife would at least make drivers aware of the possibility of making way for goslings, she says.

Other creatures, including ducks and turtles, live nearby, and the pond in front of Southland Christian and Applebee's is roiling with carp the size of puppies. Hargett said the whole area is a learning experience for the geese and their babies — from finding food, as one of the parents noshes on a dandelion, to avoiding possible predators.

Sutton-Hargett said she would be willing to raise money for new signs. City spokeswoman Susan Straub said Richmond Road is the responsibility of the state. Hargett said she was directed to Logan Baker, project manager for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, who did not return calls requesting comment on Thursday and Friday.

Hargett said there are colonies of waterfowl in other Lexington locations — including Walden Drive, Blazer Parkway and Stonewood Lane — where cars also pose a threat.

She said people should drive carefully because in the geese and their goslings, "We see what family is meant to be."

Richmond Road is not the only area where wildlife gets a little extra help.

On Saturday, a police scanner recorded a call for police help on Nicholasville Road.

What was described as a "ginormous turtle" needed help crossing the road.

Cheryl Truman: (859) 231-3202. Twitter: @CherylTruman.

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