4,500-mile wild goose chase leads trackers to a chilling end
Researchers conducting the most elaborate wild goose chase in history are digesting the news that a bird they have tracked for over 4,500 miles is about to be cooked.
Kerry, an Irish light-bellied Brent goose, was one of six birds tagged in Northern Ireland in May by researchers monitoring the species' remarkable migration.
Last week, however, he was found dead in an Inuit hunter's freezer in Canada, still wearing his $4,600 satellite tracking device. Kerry was discovered by researchers on the remote Cornwallis Island. They picked up the signal and tried to find him.
"They looked in all the fjords and lakes where Brent geese go, but had no success at all," said Mr James Robinson, senior research officer of the Wildlife and Wetland's Trust, which organised the project.
"Then as they were walking back into town, their receiver started beeping more strongly. They tracked the beeps to a house, knocked on the door, and found that the guy who lived there had shot Kerry on another island, called Bathurst Island.
"Kerry was in the hunter's freezer. He hadn't been plucked and the transponder was still on him. The hunter was somewhat surprised - he didn't know what the device on the goose's back was.
"He was a bit reluctant to co-operate to start with, but when the project was explained to him he was happy to help. We thought Kerry had flown across from Bathurst Island to Cornwallis Island, but in fact he was being carried in the hunter's boat. All the time the satellite was still tracking him." The Irish light-bellied Brent goose's 9,000-mile migration route is one of the most arduous undertaken by any bird. They depart their wintering grounds across Ireland in May and overfly Iceland and Greenland en route to Canada. After laying their eggs and rearing the goslings, they return to Ireland.
Of the six other geese fitted with transponders in May, one called Arnthor is also thought to have been shot.
His transponder stopped bleeping abruptly over Disko Island on the west coast of Greenland, where hunting is illegal in spring but known to take place.
A third goose, Oscar, died in Iceland, where his body was found on a small island. Researchers think he may have been killed by a bird of prey.