Contributed by Anonymous
I know. We’re often admonished ‘Do Not Feed the Wildlife’. Makes sense…upsets ecological balances, produces dependence on human handouts, etc. But once in a while, you just can’t resist. This morning (Saturday, August 12) I was out in the back yard doing some minor chores when I noticed Mr. and Mrs. Cygnus olor swimming into my cove. For non-birders, those are the mute swans that have been gracing our lake. I don’t know whether this pair is new/recent; earlier in the season the cob would show very aggressive display towards boats venturing too close to his mate and would swim menacingly directly at them. Probably the behavioral results of nesting season. This morning both seemed delighted to find a human presence at the shore!
So, yes, I thought about the ‘do not feed’ rule but yielded to the temptation and went back to the house for a small cup of Cheerios. The swans came right up to my dock and enjoyed (well, at least the male did!) the cereal. Then I began wondering why a swam would be drooling (they don’t do that) until I realized I was seeing water droplets running down something from the swan’s beak to the water. Toward the rear of his upper bill, friend swan had a fish hook which had penetrated the bill, and to the hook was still attached a monofilament leader with additional fishing line with a small split-shot weight. That was dangling several inches into the water. My neighbors were out and we coaxed the swans to their location. We got some gloves and more Cheerios and tried to get the male to let us get close enough to a) attempt to hold his head and remove the hook, or, failing that, b) cut the line short so that the long portion could not get entangled on something else in or around the lake and the swan be trapped. Mr. Swan wanted nothing to do with either option.
After contacting the security gate for guidance, I finally got a dispatcher at PA Game Commission. She took the relevant information and promised to forward it to a warden. I guess I was actually a little surprised to get a call early this afternoon from that warden (Officer Hobbs) saying he hadn’t encountered this kind of call before but would be out soon to see what he could do. And the wrap on the story is that warden Hobbs was here and job taken care of by 3 p.m. Turns out the swans were in another cove and some residents there managed to corner the male against a dock, cover his eyes to get him quieted, and then remove the fish hook and its tackle. (Thanks to those, at this writing anonymous, Lake Heritage residents!).
Nice ending to a nice story, right? Yes, but there’s also a message here. I’m an “occasional” fisherman. And I’ve snagged something on the bottom more than once that caused a loss of small tackle. But today’s adventure with the swans points out that, to the extent possible, it is fairly critical to clean up fishing tackle debris. Wildlife just doesn’t mix well with mono-filament line. And even worse, consider the possibilities if a small child playing in the water got entangled.
And now, despite the rules, kinda glad I opted to feed the birds this morning so I can go back to watching that graceful pair of swans swim elegantly around the lake!