Blue Goose

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If you are a regular visitor to national wildlife refuges you have probably come across the blue goose symbol. Visiting Black Bayou Lake, the blue goose is hard to miss in the form of a metal sculpture between the Visitor Center and the Conservation Learning Center.


We get asked the question, why a blue goose and although the definitive answer is lost to history the origins of it as a symbol date back to 1934. The first blue goose was drawn by J.N. “Ding” Darling, the first chief of the U.S. Biological Survey (the forerunner to the US Fish and Wildlife Service), and a Pulitzer-prize winning cartoonist. Early depictions of the goose actually use a black color making it seem closer to a Canada goose but over the years, the blue goose became the standard. There is in fact a real “blue goose”, it is a morph of the snow goose. The reason that Darling chose this as a symbol is unknown; but, it’s first use was at Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge, ND in 1934.

 

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Rachel Carson encouraged the public to look for the blue goose since, “Wherever you meet this sign, respect it. It means that the land behind the sign has been dedicated by the American people to preserving, for themselves and their children, as much of our native wildlife as can be retained along with our modern civilization.”

In 1989 the symbol became widely used in the refuge system and now appears on refuge boundary and entrance signs. The blue goose can also be found on other refuge items and many service staff and volunteers have donned the costume to bring the Blue Goose to the public.

 

 

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Black Bayou Lake’s big blue goose not only is a symbol of the refuge system but also represents the direction of migration. We turn it twice a year, in the fall it is turned south during the annual Friends of Black Bayou Fall Celebration. In the spring we turn it north around Earth Day to represent northward migration. Some younger visitors have asked whether it helps the birds find their way. The birds don’t need a goose to point them in the right direction, but it is a reminder to all of us of migration and the importance of the wildlife refuges the goose represents for these migrants.