Veterinarian Ian Lawrie of Chase River Veterinary Hospital releases a swan near the Nanaimo River estuary. The swan was found earlier that morning tangled in a fishing net and nearly drowned. (Photo submitted)

Swan saved after near-drowning in Nanaimo estuary

Campers, veterinarians contribute to bird's rescue and recovery

A swan that was found bedraggled and nearly drowned made it back from the brink.

Frank Vosshans rescued a swan caught in a discarded fishing net Sunday in the Nanaimo River estuary and Chase River Veterinary Hospital oversaw the bird’s recovery.

Vosshans, camping with his wife at Living Forest Campground, noticed some splashing in the estuary early Sunday morning.

“I … grabbed my binoculars and saw that it was a swan wrapped up in a discarded fish net,” Vosshans said. “I went home, grabbed my boat, went out, got the swan; it was three-quarters drowned.”

Ian Lawrie, veterinarian, said the bird was limp when it was brought in.

“It was bordering on lifeless and totally non-responsive. It was in pretty rough shape,” he said. “We found that it was totally exhausted and hypothermic. It was super cold and had burned up all its energy stores.”

An infrared heating bed helped to warm up the swan.

“Once his body temperature came up, he started to become more and more responsive and within probably a few hours, he was able to actually stand and hiss at us,” Lawrie said.

Later that same day, the swan had made a full recovery and Lawrie and Vosshans released it in the same place it had been found. The bird appeared confused for a few moments, but then, with a flapping start, took off and flew more than half a kilometre away, where it landed, preened, and eventually met up with its bevy.

“As soon as I saw him take off and fly like that, I knew he was absolutely fine,” Lawrie said, adding that it was rewarding to see the swan’s recovery.

The vet said he hopes a lesson can come from the incident, suggesting that the discarded net “wasn’t responsible fishing” and said he’s seen other birds, such as eagles and loons, become tangled and hurt in fishing gear.

Vosshans expressed thanks to the “amazing people” at the veterinary hospital, who didn’t charge for the care provided, and said the swan’s recovery was awesome to see.

“I just about started crying when he took off running across the water and then flew away,” he said.

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