Remembering Mario: LA's Famous Goose Who Was Actually A Gander

When Maria arrived at the zoo, staffers quickly discovered the gray toulouse goose was actually a male. (File photo by Kevin Ferguson/KPCC)

Southern California is a dense and diverse place to live. We have the wonderful opportunity to forge friendships with people from all walks of life, or waddles of life in the case of the Echo Park Lake goose that first captured our hearts back in 2011.

A Gray Toulouse goose named Maria (later to be known as Mario) and his human BFF, Dominic Ehrler, caught the attention of locals when their unique relationship went viral. The pair were often spotted on regular strolls around Echo Park Lake, walking together like two peas in a pod.

Sadly, Mario — or Maria as he's still sometimes called — passed away last Friday, but not before leaving a lasting impression on the city he called home.

Ehrler didn't court his goose friend on purpose; they just kind of met and clicked right away.

"Maria came right up to me and looked up at me so innocently and I just fell in love just like that," Ehrler told the BBC's Odd Animal Couples in 2011. "When you fall in love with a goose, you've got be aware of what you're getting involved with. They bond for life so I feel like a have a certain sense of responsibility."

Their bond even inspired Ehrler to stop eating poultry.

Mario developed a strong bond with Ehrler after their very own meet-cute at the park, amid the swan boats and lotus flowers. That lakeside spot became a regular hangout for the two. Mario would even try to follow Ehrler home, attempting to fly alongside his scooter. A few years back Echo Park Lake underwent a big renovation, forcing the local waterfowl to find a new home.

But Mario was different from his other poultry pals and was obviously too dependent on Ehrler and other people to make it on his own. It was suspected that Mario had been raised by humans, then released at the Echo Park Lake. So while Mario blended in with his wild buddies, he was not going to thrive in the wild like them.

That led to Mario's big move to his very own new diggs at the Los Angeles Zoo. It was there that biologists discovered that Maria the goose was actually Mario the gander. But Ehrler still held onto both names affectionately.

"When he's good he's Maria, when he's bad he's Mario," Ehrler told KPCC's On Ramp in a 2013 interview.

Dominic Ehrler and Maria/Mario the goose greet visitors to the Winnick Family Children's Zoo at the Los Angeles Zoo.(File photo by Kevin Ferguson/KPCC)

Ehrler managed to carry on his friendship with Mario, diligently visiting him at his permanent home at the L.A. Zoo, all while Mario regularly delighted zoo-goers.

So, we bid Mario a fond farewell, and many thanks for his spirited "honks" hello and for reminding us that the true nature of friendship knows no bounds.


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