Swans struggling with unseasonably cold weather on Vancouver Island

Emaciated swans recovering at MARS. The adult instinctively positions itself between any human entering the pen and the two sub-adults and is very protective even though neither is its chick. Jo Stiles photoEmaciated swans recovering at MARS. The adult instinctively positions itself between any human entering the pen and the two sub-adults and is very protective even though neither is its chick. Jo Stiles photo
A swan rescue in Merville Dec. 31 by MARS volunteers Roma, France and Leona. Photo by Roma Pastershank.A swan rescue in Merville Dec. 31 by MARS volunteers Roma, France and Leona. Photo by Roma Pastershank.

Jane Sproull Thomson

Special to Black Press

If you spotted some “swans a’ swimming” over Christmas, you may have noticed that our beautiful trumpeters are having a tough time in the cold.

Like a 747, they need a long takeoff run, and deep snow and ice hampers this, as well as making it tough to get food. The Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS) Wildlife Rescue Hospital admitted eight emaciated and injured swan patients over the holidays.

This photo of the birds recovering at MARS illustrates interesting behaviour. The adult always positions itself between any human entering the pen and the two sub-adults and is very protective even though neither is its chick, nor were they part of the same flock, so far as we know. It takes a village to raise a child!

Pine siskins are again arriving at MARS with symptoms of salmonella poisoning. To keep your wild bird feeders healthy, clean them every week, or more often if they are very busy. Wash off all debris with soapy water, then soak them in a 1:9 bleach to water solution and dry thoroughly. In general, if you can’t be sure you will be able to maintain all your bird feeders properly, it is best to stop feeding in the autumn and let the birds find alternative sources before the cold weather arrives, because in winter they depend on finding food quickly where they have found it before.

As always, if you find a sick or injured bird or other animal in trouble, call MARS at 250-337-2021.

Catch it gently with a soft towel or blanket and put it in a box with air holes. Wash your hands carefully afterwards. Bring the patient to the wildlife hospital in Merville as soon as possible. If you cannot bring it yourself, MARS will try to arrange a pick-up. Please do not feed or try to treat a wild bird or animal at home as you can easily “kill it with kindness,” and many wild things carry diseases that can be passed on to your family.

Your donations have helped MARS care for over 1400 wild friends this past year, and patients continue to arrive in unprecedented numbers. Please consider becoming one of the cherished monthly donors! For donation information as well as some great photos and videos, see marswildliferescue.com or at MARS Wildlife Rescue Centre on Facebook.

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