Swan rescue

Fairford Swan Aid

Swan rescue

The Hazards Swans Face

A cygnet from Lechlade with fishing line cutting into its upper beak.

This swan swallowed a hook which passed through his oesophagus into his lungs. The hook was successfully removed in an operation (see the indentation under his neck).

This cygnet had swallowed fishing line with a float still attached

This cygnet was in a collision with a boat and had its wing sheared off leaving a bony stump.

The picture of swans swimming serenely on water is a tranquil, idyllic one. Water is a swan’s home, its source of food and its refuge from predators like foxes, especially in its six week flightless moult period.

Unfortunately, this very same water also brings dangers, many of which are caused by man. Nature always brings death to the weak and young – for cygnets in their first few weeks pike are a natural predator. Foxes are always on the look out for the sick or vulnerable. But man has added to these predators. Alien mink have escaped from mink farms and are responsible for the destruction of whole clutches of eggs or broods of young. Dogs off the lead whose owners cannot control them often leap into the water and attack swans, sometimes fatally.

Lakes and rivers are also home to fish which means the presence of anglers and their deadly tackle. A swan innocently feeding on the water can eat the baited hook or become ensnared in line if the angler does not take it out of the water. Discarded line caught in water weed and other litter left by anglers can cause suffering as well. Fishing tackle is the major cause of injured swans and the number of incidents goes up dramatically in the school summer holidays.

Swans need grit from the bottom of lakes and rivers to help them digest their food. Lead shot from wildfowling or lead weights from fishing (many sizes are now illegal but some are still used) can be ingested accidentally by swans causing lead poisoning which is fatal unless treated early. Falling water levels due to global warming expose old lead weights for swans to pick up. It also increases the risk of botulism.

Man’s boating activities can also bring trouble to swans; either by direct collision on the water, disturbance to the nesting site or pollution of the water from petrol or oil. An oiled swan will die as the feathers lose their waterproofing and ingested oil is poisonous. The wash from boats also erodes river banks and inhibits plant growth thus reducing the swans’ source of food.

All is not doom and gloom however. The angling fraternity are becoming increasingly aware of the environment – education is crucial. Planners are also taking environmental issues more into account as the demand for recreation intrudes ever more on the countryside. There are also voluntary swan rescue groups and the RSPCA to rescue sick and injured swans and return them to the wild when they have recovered. Without these rescue groups there would not be so many swans gracing our waters.

Copyright © 2001-2011 Fairford Swan Aid. All rights reserved.