The cygnets were first seen with their parents on the morning of Saturday 8th. It did not take long for them to be harassed by dogs off leads, despite notices asking owners to keep their dogs on leads during the breeding season. They were on the bank at the south west end of the lake when a young dog off the lead ran at the swans barking and generally making a fuss; it did not appear to touch either the adult swans or the two cygnets. There were other incidents involving dogs.
By Tuesday morning, there was only one cygnet with the pen (female) on a platform at the east end of the lake; the cob (cob) was sitting on the bank next to the platform not moving much. The cob had not moved by the evening and the pen and cygnet were on the water.
A resident has reported hearing a commotion – maybe wings thrashing around but no barking or growling – at around 1.30am but was unable to go and investigate at the time. At around 6.15am, the body of the cob was found, dead and apparently mutilated – partially eaten? This was reported to the Council and Serco collected the body.
The pen was sitting partly on a straw bale at the north west corner of the lake and, for a while, the cygnet was not visible but it was sheltering under her wing. Swan Support were contacted and they tried to recover the cob’s body for investigation but it was too late; it had already been incinerated.
The pen was looking unwell by this time Swan Support were asked to visit to take a look at it. Unfortunately, it was quite a while before they arrived and it was late on Wednesday afternoon when they collected the pen and the cygnet. They were not sure that the pen would live but she survived the night and they carried out tests. One idea, as yet to be confirmed, is that the heavy rain on Monday gave rise to some natural toxin which affected both swans. If the cob had been affected in this way, he would not have had the strength to fight off a fox – a more likely assailant at that time of night than a dog.
The cygnet, although underweight, is likely to survive.
As of Friday, 14th, Swan Support report that the pen is a bit better today but that the results of the tests will be another few days.
Although a dog may not have played a direct part in the death of the swan (this time), the GPCA would support any action that can be taken to enforce a “dogs on leads” policy around the lake to prevent further harassment of and injury to the wildlife.