The Sandon Village sign featuring the Sandon Goose (Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Mike W Hallett)

It’s not entirely uncommon for an animal to capture the hearts and minds of a town, assuming a position as “semi-official mascot.” There’s Hamish the cat in St. Andrews, Scotland; Shrek the sheep in Bendigo, New Zealand; Mayor Stubbs of Talkeetna, Alaska, and many more.

Unfortunately, the love of the townspeople wasn’t enough to protect a goose in Sandon, England. The goose—which had been a part of Sandon for 11 years and is featured on the town’s welcome sign—was allegedly murdered in a drive-by shooting earlier this week, and the outcry among citizens has reached such fury that the police are now investigating.

The Sandon Goose was well-known and loved among the community, who reminisced about his unfailing devotion to the pond’s ducks and occasionally aggressive defense of a nearby mailbox for The Hertfordshire Mercury. As resident Gay Ayton put it, “It’s really shocking. A lot of the villagers are feeling very sad—even though he was cursed as sometimes you couldn’t post a letter without a stick.”

Penny Waldridge, a 30-year Sandon resident, further explained to the Mercury that “People are very upset as everybody knew [the goose],” despite the fact that he was unnamed due to his named predecessors’ tendency to be run over.

Initially, the local police reported to the Mercury that they would not be investigating the crime. However, as the goose’s murder began to receive national coverage, the police seemed to change their mind, with a spokesman telling the Guardian they were opening an investigation. However, the spokesman emphasized they have a bit of an uphill battle, explaining, “At the moment we cannot confirm if it has been shot or not because we would need a body to do that.”

Yesterday, the police provided more details on the investigation to the Mercury, detailing plans to exhume the goose’s body and have it examined at the Royal Veterinary College. If the examination uncovers foul play, the police will investigate the crime jointly with the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Their investigation may end up competing with local vigilantes—an outraged local called into a radio show yesterday and offered £250,000 to the person who catches the murderers, according to a BBC report. Currently, police only have third-party descriptions of a dark-colored 4x4 used in the crime, and ask that anyone with additional information come forward.

Meanwhile, the townspeople of Sandon are publicly memorializing their fallen feathered friend. According to the Guardian, the goose was buried near the pond, with memorial items, flowers, and notes placed in the decommissioned phone booth the goose often used as shelter, including heartbreaking notes from local children. The newspaper reprinted one particularly crushing goodbye:

To dear old Mr Goose. I will miss seeing you. My mum said when you put your tongue out and [made] that hiss, it was coz you loved the duks and your home. I liked that you was brave to help wot you love and helped the duks cross the road. don’t wurry me and my friends will look after them for you now.