Rescue operation for baby swan sparks Hampstead Heath littering warning

Heath rangers help the injured cygnet

Heath rangers help the injured cygnet - Credit: Archant

A baby swan had to be rescued after it became trapped in a fishing line, leaving it unable to swim.

The cygnet was just two months old when it was spotted floundering in Pond Number 2 on the Heath, before a team of rangers rescued it as they plucked the cygnet out of the pond and snipped the net off.

Thankfully the animal was not seriously injured, but it has prompted a warning about littering.

Ron Vester, member of the Heath and Hampstead sub-committee, who frequently monitors the ponds and saw the events unfold, said: “I saw the father of the swan looking like he was going to get out of the water and have a go at the rangers, so I kept it at a distance.

Rangers Justin Walsh and Scott from the City of London Corporation raced to the scene and pulled the cygnet out of the pond, as they also checked its body for any hooks.

“The swan must have swum into a fishing line that was in the water,” said Mr Vester.

The cause of the drama has been established to be excessive littering on the Heath, as a result of fishermen dropping off their nets in the ponds, something which “has been going on for years and years.”

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Mr Vester said that more than 100ft of fishing line has been pulled out on one occasion.

“This isn’t the first time something like this has happened – once a swan had a hook stuck in his mouth, and we had to pull him down to help him.”

Fishing cannot be banned on the Heath’s ponds because fishermen pay a license fee in order to be able to fish on the Heath, meaning that “there’s no real answer” to the problem.

“In previous years a swan had swallowed part of a fishing line, leaving it lodged in its neck, so it had to be taken to the hospital to get it surgically removed,” Mr Vester said.

A spokesperson from the City of London said: “When the Heath Rangers got to the cygnet, they managed to bring it to safety under the trees.

“Ranger Justin Walsh cut and removed the entrapping wire.

“It is unlikely that without the prompt actions of our Ranger team the cygnet would have survived on such a hot day.

“Angles must not leave fishing lines or hooks in the water.

“Doing so puts wildlife at very real risk of injury.”