Dean’s Story, from Rescue to Release!

Did you know that the Trumpeter Swan is the largest waterfowl in Canada?
Originally native to Ontario, the Trumpeter swan had vanished.

Ontario has a program called the Ontario Trumpeter Swan Restoration Program, where the birds are banded, so we can keep track of them, especially when they need our assistance.

Many Trumpeter swans were raised in breeding programs and fed by volunteers. Unlike the wild swans, they don’t know how to fully migrate. They need to winter in a place with open, unfrozen water, shallow enough to reach the bottom for food. Unfortunately, some of them don’t figure this out and end up needing our help!


Meet Dean!
This handsome swan had a tough time through 2015’s harsh winter. Thankfully with help from the community and Wild Earth Refuge this guy was quickly on his way to recovery.

Dean (aka M45) is luckily one of the registered swans. Because of this we know a little bit about him and that he has a mate named Lisa! For some reason he got separated from Lisa and was found at the Whitby Harbor alone. Thankfully Jake, a good samaritan, knew to call us for help.

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He was being picked on by some of the Mute Swans at the lake. He was very weak and unable stand on his own. Being the only Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Durham, he was brought to us for triage, initial critical care and stabilization.

Gentle and handsome, Dean was clearly exhausted, terribly thin, and showing signs of pneumonia. With a wingspan of over 7 feet, Dean needed a lot of space!

Because of his size, and our current limited space at Wild Earth Refuge, we decided it would be in Dean’s best interest to transfer him to Sandy Pines Wildlife Center in Napanee, where he would continue to get the best care in a much larger facility.

In just under a month, Dean is fully recovered and ready to be wild again. He put weight back on and is full of energy and life.

His mate Lisa is likely missing him, and will be grateful for his return. Trumpeters are long lived and form long-term bonds with their mates.


He was released on Monday April 13th, taking straight to the water, he was happy to be home. He wasted no time, dunking his head in to find food.

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Wild Earth Refuge is working hard at growing our facility so we can accommodate larger birds like Dean in the future. Our goal is to be able to house a wider variety of wildlife that desperately needs our help in the Durham region.

Please click the donate button at the side of the page and help us reach our goal!

We would like to thank Jake for noticing that this boy needed help, and taking the time to call us. We also want to thank Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre for helping Dean through his recovery.

February 16, 2016 Update from Gary on Swan M45. Thanks Gary!

RE: The Trumpeter Swan M45 ‘Dean’ that was rescued in Whitby Harbour last winter.

He is doing well and is currently hanging out in Aurora with a whole bunch of other Swans. Here they are fed daily in a completely private pond which is kept ice free. He is reported to be following around a pair of adults that have 3 cygnets. This family might be the one that nested at the same site he and ‘Lisa’ nested in 2014. May be making advances on his former mate !!



  • Janet Drew (SPWC) says:

    Hi, Kelli
    I am a long-time volunteer at Sandy Pines, and in addition to the hands-on work at the Centre, I am also involved in producing our fundraiser calendar (which was a first for us this year). I am writing to ask if we might use your beautiful photograph of Dean in flight for this year’s calendar? We will give credit to the photographer (you?) and to Wild Earth Refuge on his month’s page if we are able to use the photo. I need as high a quality image as possible, so the original jpg would be ideal. He would be a wonderful addition to the 2016 stories.
    Cheers, Janet

    • Hi Janet
      Happy to contribute the picture to your calendar. What a beautiful moment that was, to see him fly so gracefully and strong after seeing him in such bad condition a month earlier. I emailed you the full size picture.


  • Lisa Susin says:


    Last Winter there were lots of Tundra Swans in the Upper Niagara River, I understand that a group of them got frozen onto the Ice and couldn’t move ( It happens to ducks too when they rest for the night ), They make easy prey for the coyote’s and other predators. Is there anyway that when this happens that they could be saved and free’d before it’s to late??

    • Hi Lisa

      The only thing I can suggest is to put together a rescue team. Speak to the Toronto Wildlife Centre for procedures, equipment and safety issues.
      Most waterfowl that has been frozen to the ice will also be dehydrated and need to be seen by a wildlife rehabber. Do you have one in your area? Possibly you can team up with them.

      • lisa Susin says:

        I was by the mouth of the river and saw a duck with just the tip of it’s wing frozen to the ice, water moves pretty fast under it and I called the SPCA – no help. I also than called a friend who know’s someone that is a Volunteer Fireman/woman – they were going to try to see if they could help as they have the equipment, but another friend came by to see what we could do and out of desperation stated to wave our hands – the duck then pulled enough to get the tip out and back into the river it went. I found out since that there is a Wild life rehabbed but it is in Welland, but I don’t know of anyone that does the rescues in this area. I can’t because of my work schedule – but I can put the word out to see if anyone else is able to.

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