Rescue at St George Lake; last cygnet gone.

This story was written by Maggie of Clouds Hill Bristol, and edited by Peter; she chairs the Friends of St. George Park Bristol, and is an ardent campaigner for improvements to the local environment, and in particular for there to be far tighter control of angling, and if there is no improvement, for angling to be banned.

This morning (Thursday 9th. January), a group of rescuers gathered on the edge of St. George Lake to attempt the rescue of the last remaining cygnet of seven hatched early last spring. Reports from local people had reached the Park Keeper that the cygnet wasn’t feeding and appeared listless. Several attempts to catch the cygnet had failed, so Swan Rescue which is based in South Wales were called. The assistance of canoeists from North Avon Canoe Club based in Yate was also obtained, with the aim of corralling  the cygnet into a location where it could be caught easily using a swan hook. The cygnet which hadn’t eaten for 5 or 6 days obliged, and was soon  secured in a special swan wrap in which it could be inspected.

Cygnet with chin trap rescue 9-1-14 (5) (Small)

It was clear immediately the swan carried a ‘chinstrap’ – fishing line, passing under the lower part of the beak, with one end then swallowed down each side of the tongue. Naturally, the line is pulled progressively tighter by the gizzard – part of the digestive system – and so is cutting deeper and deeper into the flesh. Without this rescue, it would have died a slow and painful death. In this case, the line was simply cut with a pair of scissors, so releasing the tension immediately.

Cygnet with chin trap rescue 9-1-14 (11) (Small)

Cygnet; St. Georges Park, Bristol, 26.01.12.

The cygnet will be taken to the National Swan Sanctuary at Shepperton to undergo a thorough check – possibly including X-rays – to look for swallowed hooks. Peter stressed the point fishing line must never be pulled out because, if there is a hook on the end, it will cause horrendous damage; someone did attempt this with one of the other cygnets last year, resulting in a 5″ tear in the aesophagus.

In 2012, six of the seven cygnets hatched on the lake either died or had to be rescued as a result of fishing tackle related injuries; in 2013, four out of the seven suffered a similar fate, while the other three disappeared not long after hatching.

Fishing is allowed on park lakes within designated areas despite public objection; Bristol City Council are introducing a free permit system on St. George Lake which local people fear will encourage more people to fish. Policing a system like this, out of hours, on long summer evenings is going to be a costly business, and one the Council cannot afford right now.

During the rescue this morning, many local people using the park came to see the operation in progress; the one question asked repeatedly was ‘Why is fishing allowed?’


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