Do Geese Smell Fear?

Fall is my favorite time to ride my bike or go for a run along the towpath. It may be because it’s the time of year I discovered the canal and realized that it was a ‘towpath’ with a history and purpose, and not a ‘toepath,’ which in my imagination was a narrow and treacherous place to run beside the river.

I could say it’s the cooler temperatures, or the explosion of gold, red, and orange along the trail, but reality is that from October to March the path is goose free and that makes me happy.

Before I go on, I should share that I have an extreme fear of birds.  It doesn’t matter how big or how small they are, I’m certain that they are out to get me.  I won’t set foot into the aviary at the zoo, let alone sit in the waiting room at the train station if a swallow has somehow found its way into the building.

I’m not sure where the fear originated, it might have stemmed from watching Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds at an impressionable age. Or it maybe it was being dive bombed by birds of an unremembered species while the mowing the lawn as a teenager; of course, I’m not 100% certain whether either memory is real or imagined.

At any rate, the geese on the towpath present quite a problem for me. I’m not certain they ‘smell fear,’ but I am convinced that they, not so secretly, enjoy knowing that whenever I get within three feet of them the hair on the back of my neck rises, I break into a cold sweat and I’m instantly covered in goose bumps.

I’ve received a lot of guidance on how to ‘face my fear’ and ‘overcome my obstacles’ as it relates to the taunting flock of feathers that guard the towpath from spring until fall.  The advice ranges from hissing and clapping at them to instructions to raise my arms above my head, make my hands look like claws, and growl really loud while hopping on the path.  I’m pretty sure the guy who passed along that ‘advice’ just wanted to see if I’d actually do it.

I have to admit I was tempted.