A swan now being treated for malnutrition at the B.C. Wildlife Park in Kamloops, likely never would have survived if it wasn’t for a rescue mission staged by some quick-thinking Shuswap residents.
Fawn Herrington and her family were enjoying a family outing to Margaret Falls when they noticed a swan sitting immobile on the ice approximately 50 feet offshore along Sunnybrae-Canoe Point road.
After returning from the falls and seeing the swan had not moved, the family tried to asses the bird’s condition.
“The swan wasn’t running away, it was just sitting with its head ereect and hissing at us,” Herrington said.
The ice broke when Herrington’s husband Jason tried to get closer to the swan and when it tried to move away from them, it left a patch of feathers where it had been frozen to the ice. The swan’s legs gave out beneath it every time it tried to move away.
Herrington called the RCMP, the fire department and a conservation officer, none of whom would help with rescuing the swan.
“The conservation officer said there was nothing they could do, that this was kind of the law of nature and as long as it wasn’t close to any people’s houses we should just let it run its course. That wasn’t good enough for us, so we called Twin Hearts Animal Sanctuary.”
Sanctuary owner Diane Nicholson said she was unable to assist with the rescue but would take the swan in if the family could rescue the bird.
Nicholson then began calling veterinarians and other people who might be able to help.
In the meantime, Herrington and her family went home to get their kayak and other equipment to help retrieve the swan. When they got back to Sunnybrae around 4:30 p.m., the bird was still frozen in place.
Jason went out to the swan in the kayak, breaking the thin sheet of ice as he went.
Having received a call from Nicholson, Joel Lafortune arrived on scene withwearing a wet suit he uses for surfing and free-diving – usually in warmer bodies of water than Shuswap Lake in January.
As the men approached, the swan began panicking and moving away, so the men tried herding the large bird towards shore.
Eventually the swan became so tired that Jason was able to loop a rope around it, and Fawn and others on the shore, including Mike and Gwen Kennedy who arrived with lights and more rope, were able to gently drag it to land.
Rescuers on shore threw blankets over the swan and loaded it into the back of the Herringtons’ SUV.
The entire rescue operation took around two-and-a-half hours and the Herringtons dropped the swan off at Twin Hearts Animal Sanctuary by 7 p.m.
“Our hope was that she (Nicholson) was going to try to feed it and warm it up and then we could come out the next day and give her a hand releasing it,” Herrington said.
But on Sunday, Nicholson estimated the Swan was too weak to release and asked if the Herringtons could take the bird to the B.C. Wildlife Park for treatment.
Herrington and her family were happy to oblige, so they loaded the swan into a dog carrier, covered it with blankets and drove it to Kamloops.
The staff at the Wildlife Park later concluded the swan is anemic and may have been unable to feed itself for sometime. Its leg was not broken as earlier feared; the bird was just too weak to stand.
“They’re just going to keep feeding it and keep it warm and hope that it regains its health – that’s where we’re at now,” Herrington said.
The Herringtons and Lafortune said they are glad they took the time to help the swan and thanked everyone else involved in the rescue.