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Highlanders warned over dangerous attempts to rescue swans ‘stuck’ in ice

By Tom Ramage

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The Scottish SPCA is asking animal lovers to think twice before attempting to rescue swans they fear may be stuck in ice, putting both themselves and the animals at risk.

Keep your distance, says SSPCA
Keep your distance, says SSPCA

During the recent cold snap, the society’s animal helpline received over 70 calls from concerned members of the public regarding swans they mistakenly feared were stuck in ice on frozen lochs or ponds. Despite the charity advising that in the vast majority of cases the birds are able to free themselves, members of the public have been attempting their own rescues or, in some cases, calling the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to attend.

Scottish SPCA chief superintendent, Mike Flynn, said: “We understand that the public have good intentions when it comes to these birds and are concerned they are stuck or in distress.

“In reality, swans are incredibly powerful birds and more than capable of breaking any ice that forms around them.

"Occasionally, if temperatures are unusually low and the water is very still, like that found in a pond, they may become stuck. However, this is very rare and normally the birds will simply break the ice themselves and fly off when they are ready to.

“We would ask that callers follow the advice given by our helpline operators and animal rescue officers when it comes to this issue and don’t attempt to take matters in to their own hands.

“We really must urge the public not to attempt to rescue any swans themselves, either by throwing items at the ice around the bird or venturing on to the ice themselves. This will cause the swan a massive amount of stress and you could injure the bird if you are throwing any kind of projectile to break the ice.

“Worse still, if you venture on to the ice yourself you could be putting your life in danger. Swans are perfectly adapted to survive in extremely cold water – humans are not!

“If you are concerned about a swan, or any waterfowl, during icy weather please monitor the bird from a distance. If the bird is there for a number of hours without moving, or appears sick or injured in any way, then please call our animal helpline in the first instance.

“If there is a real concern we will contact the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service for assistance. We work very closely with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and our trained animal rescue officers are able to assess the severity of each situation and if we need any support from other agencies.”

Anyone who comes across an animal in distress can call the Scottish SPCA animal helpline on 03000 999 999.

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