One of the world's smallest and most rare geese is being treated at the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care Center after winter storms forced it to take refuge in a most unlikely place: a ski resort.
Sierra-at-Tahoe employees discovered the lone Ross goose on Sunday, miles away from where the birds are usually found, in California's Central Valley.
The goose was cold and uncomfortable in the near-blizzard conditions at the ski resort, but wouldn't let anyone near it. After employees spent several minutes chasing the bird, it flew into a building and suffered what Lake Tahoe Wildlife operators say was a mild concussion.
Sierra-at-Tahoe Pub Manager Aaron Barnes wrapped up the goose and took it to the South Shore wildlife care facility, where it is being treated and will be released today or Friday.
According to the "Birds of North America" field identification manual, the Ross goose is described as the smallest and rarest of the North American geese. It breeds in the Arctic and winters almost exclusively in California's Central Valley. It is similar to the snow goose but smaller.
It is the first bird of its species treated by Lake Tahoe Wildlife said Tom Millham, treasurer of the facility off of Elks Club Road and Cherry Hill Circle.
In a given year, the facility treats about 800 birds and animals. Usually, the center sees a few Canada and snow geese this time of year.
The Ross goose at the center has a small head, a wide wingspan of 51 inches and is about 16 inches tall. It was fed grain, called duck mesh, and is recovering nicely after hitting the wall.
"I think he was on his way north and got a little off course, probably because of the storms," Millham said. "We will build him up a little bit right now, give him some tender loving care, and send him on his way as the storm passes."