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Plea over swan safety as dog mauls cygnet on Hampstead Heath

PUBLISHED: 16:01 28 October 2011 | UPDATED: 16:10 28 October 2011

The male swan is cared for by supervising ranger Danny Murphy after its rescue. Picture: Ron Vester

The male swan is cared for by supervising ranger Danny Murphy after its rescue. Picture: Ron Vester

A plea for swans on Hampstead Heath to be better protected has been made after a cygnet was savaged by a dog at the weekend.

One of 15 cygnets born on the Heath this summer was attacked on grassland above the men’s swimming pond on Saturday.

Park rangers and a wildlife officer rescued the young female bird and took it to a local vets for treatment.

But when the cygnet was returned to its parents on the boating pond, sadly the mother swan rejected it.

Photographer Ron Vester, of Belsize Park, who captured the scenes on camera, said: “One cygnet was savaged by a Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

“It was taken to the vet, but it had been handled by people and had antibiotics, so when it was put back in the pond the mother went for it straight away, because she didn’t recognise the odours from it.”

Later that day a robust male cygnet hit a fence and was stunned before also being rescued by the wildlife officer.

Cygnets are making their first tentative flights at this time of year, leaving them vulnerable. The young male was taken to Lee Valley Park, while the young female will be watched over for a few days before joining her brother.

This year three swan couples have produced five cygnets each, leading to the healthy population on the Heath.But the loss of two of the 15 cygnets will be lamented.

Mr Vester appealed for dog walkers and Heath walkers to keep an eye out for young birds as they learned to fly.

He said: “The two that have left were the last born. They were born five weeks after the rest on the Heath and they were the first to leave. There’s no telling what happens.

“They can all be saved if people just take notice. A lot of people say to me swans are not important. They’re not recognised.”

There are barriers around the pond to keep dogs away from cygnets and signs urge dog owners to keep close control of their pets.

Simon Lee, the City of London Corporation’s Superintendent at Hampstead Heath, said: “Responsible dog walkers are most welcome on the Heath.

“But when walking dogs next to the Heath Ponds, we would encourage owners to put them on leads to help protect wildlife.”


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