Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 30, 2012

Swan with fishing lure stuck in head not seen since


TRAVERSE CITY — A swan spotted this fall with a large fishing lure snagged between its eyes was never seen again, meaning no one knows if the bird survived the quandary.

The swan first was observed by boater Jim Chester on Grand Traverse Bay near the Elmwood Township Marina in October. A hook pierced the bird's head and a lure and segment of line dangled from its face, making it tough for the bird to eat.

Chester watched for days for the reappearance of the bird to see if he could help it, but it never showed up.

"I never saw it again," Chester said.

A Record-Eagle article about the swan's difficulties prompted at least a half-dozen people to contact Chester to offer help in saving the big bird.

"There were people who read the article who came down to the dock. I met one couple that claimed to have experience in catching wounded geese and swans and other critters and they said I should call them if I ever saw the swan again," Chester said.

Rebecca Lessard runs the Wings of Wonder raptor sanctuary in Empire. She said there's no way to know the bird's odds of survival. The swan's ability to live would depend on how much the hook hampered its ability to eat.

"It (the hook) could cause an infection and bring the bird down or make it weaker and then it could become part of the food chain," Lessard said. "Something an eagle could easily get."

Lessard said the wounded swan was the second report she received from the Traverse City area in which a bird was wounded this fall due to fishing line. She said a herring gull was observed with its feet tangled in a mass of fishing line in downtown Traverse City.

The incidents, she said, should serve as a reminder to fishermen to do everything possible to secure waste fishing line and lead lures and weights even after they are snagged or cut.

"All I could tell people is there is nothing we can do because the bird can fly away," Lessard said. "This is a perfect opportunity to show people that they can't leave their ... fishing line and hooks behind. It's a huge source of pollution, including all the lead from the sinkers and jigs and hooks. You should do your darndest to get (snagged lines) and remove the garbage. It just doesn't disappear."