I’m willing to bet that most visits with friends don’t generally include rescuing a stranded swan, but when you are a wildlife rehabilitator, your seemingly calm “day off” can quickly turn into another life saving rescue..
I was having coffee with Dee, a good friend and fellow rehabber from Foster Forest Wildlife Orphanage, and had just said how crazy it was that we were actually missing the “mad house” of having a full nursery, and how it was way too quiet. Just then, we got a knock at the door from a man asking us to help a swan in Brighton, who was freezing, and unable to move off the lake. . Within fifteen minutes we were on our way.
We pulled up to the Harborview Marina to see the swan stranded about 40 feet off shore. The gentleman that asked us to help, Bob, grabbed a small boat that we could have on hand if needed. We headed down a hill of rocks, towards what looked like the safest point to access the swan. Unsure of ice conditions, we were tied to a line of heavy rope for safety before walking onto the frozen lake so that if we went through the ice, we could be quickly pulled out before going under. When we approached the swan, he didn’t put up much of a fight. He actually seemed relieved to finally have someone rescue him. The beautiful white feathers so admired on these creatures, on him, were black, likely from being out in the elements for so long. His weak and emaciated body had been immobile, most likely for days, as he watched his flock heading for warmer weather, unable to join them.
Dee and I gently wrapped his cold, weighted body in warm blankets and headed to shore. Comforted in safety, the swan lay very quiet during the transport back to the center. It was a relief to us, as I’m sure it was to him, that his ordeal was over. After about 45 minutes of applying external heat and some much needed fluids, we were happy to see some life start to return to him. Once he was stable, he was transported to the good people at Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre, a place equipped for waterfowl rehabilitation where he will spend his time in recovery. Until he can once again join his friends.
It wasn’t a complicated rescue, but there were some definite risks. I think one of the requirements for being a wildlife rehabiltator has to include being a bit crazy. The kind of crazy that makes two older women, grab a net and blankets and head out onto a semi-frozen lake without hesitation. It goes without saying that Dee and I have the benefit of experience, confidence in each other, and always consider the safety of ourselves and others. We managed to pull resources together very quickly to make this happen, and the adrenaline kept us warm. After the rescue it was high fives all around and we headed back to the rehab Center. I got to thinking, and the question came to mind: “Dee, was anyone holding the end of the rope?” She looked at me, blankly. I don’t think we’ve ever laughed so hard. Yup, a certain kind of crazy.
Wild Earth Refuge is a non-profit, depending on public support to help us continue to save lives. Omni-heat reflective jackets and gloves, and pants by Columbia, would help keep us warm when helping animals in the cold winter months. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to make a donation.