A swan survived a deadly dog attack in St Annes – only to end up separated from its life-long mate and cygnets after the RSPCA put it back in the wrong place.
The male swan needed vet treatment after it was viciously attacked in Ashton Gardens in July, and underwent rigorous rehabilitation at the Stapely Grange Wildlife Centre in Cheshire.
But when it was finally well enough to be released last Thursday, instead of being reunited with his mate and four cygnets, he was mistakenly taken to Lancaster Canal in Kirkham.
Tragically, UK wildlife laws mean the bird cannot be recaptured and brought back to his family.
One of the cygnets at Ashton Gardens, which has been left fatherless after one of its parents was mistakenly released in Kirkham. Picture by Alison Allen
Mel Greenhalgh, of the Brambles Wildlife Rescue in South Shore, said: “We intially thought that he was released at Fairhaven Lake, but it turned out to be the Lancaster Canal. Meanwhile, his mate and his babies are in Ashton Gardens.
“Swans mate for life, as many birds do. So I think it’s incredibly sad on both sides, both for the little family which will be wondering where it is, and for the swan itself which will be very distressed.
“The RSPCA has apologised for it, as far as I’m aware, but have not been helpful in trying to locate the swan and reunite it with its family. I think trying to find it now will be like finding a needle in a haystack. It could have gone anywhere. It could have flown.
“As if it wasn’t bad enough that it was attacked by a dog in the first place, now it is lost.”
The male swan and cygnets at Ashton Gardens. Picture by Alison Allen
An RSPCA spokesman said the mix-up was a ‘genuine mistake’.
Mel said: “Of course we’re all human and mistakes can happen, but I would like for them to really put the effort in to see if they can relocate the swan instead of just issuing an apology.”
St Annes resident Alison Allen, who has been keeping a keen eye on the Ashton Garden swans since the dog attack, said: “As you can imagine I am so angry and upset about this, not just for myself but for all the residents of St Annes, plus mama and the cygnets. I have put so much into this with great communication between myself and the sanctuary, just to be let down at the final hurdle by an RSPCA inspector.
“I can only hope that he will be able to find his way back to his family. Please everyone keeps your eyes peeled for him. I know he’s not ringed, but he may be recognisable by the healed injury on his right wing and chest.
“The positive out of all this is that he survived the attack and is still alive and whilst I’m devastated that he is not home, I’m so grateful that he pulled through.”
People have been warned not to try to find the swan and take it back to its family, as the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 forbids the taking of any wild bird unless it is sick or injured and their sole purpose is to nurse it back to health and then release it.
Alison added: “Sadly, legally there is nothing we can do. We can’t go and pick him up and bring him back because that would be against the Wildlife Act. I really do feel bad; I have bent over backwards to try and get him home, but I’m not breaking the law.
“If the RSPCA can get permission to catch him and return him, then they should try, but we can’t force them to do so and I don’t know if they would even be allowed.”
THE RSPCA SAID…
“We rescued and rehabilitated a swan which had been found bleeding with an injured wing in St Annes after it was believed he was attacked by a dog.
“Unfortunately when it came to his release back into the wild the swan was taken to an area a few miles away from his original home. This was a genuine mistake and we have addressed the situation with those involved to avoid this happening again.
“Thanks to the hard work of our team, the swan is fit, healthy and able to fly. The swan could choose to stay at the release site or he may go back to his original home. There are examples of swans returning over large distances to former territories so we are hopeful the swan may reappear at the lake at Ashton Gardens.”