A rogue swan living on a lake in Suffolk, England, has embarked on such a violent campaign of terror, attacking other animals and smashing up valuable model boats, that one local has written to the Queen, begging for her assistance.
Mute swans are known for their capacity for aggression in defense of their nests and young, but this particular individual, which patrols Needham Lake in Suffolk, has taken things to a new level. The male bird has been seen viciously attacking geese, ducks and even dogs, and has caused tens of thousands of pounds’ damage to model boats, some of which are worth up to £15,000.
The lake is home to the Gipping Valley Model Boat Club, which is losing ships at a rate not seen since WWII. One of the swan’s assaults was caught on camera by club member Peter Ashford, who described how it reared up over the boat, giving the owner no chance to perform evasive action.
‘He smashed it with his wings over and over again,’ said Mr Ashford. ‘The rudder got stuck and it kept going in circles around the swan, which made things worse… It pushed it under and it eventually sunk.
‘It was like the German warship Bismarck in the Second World War!’ the outraged enthusiast continued, employing some creative license. ‘We would never go near the swans but this one seems to come after them.’
Swans typically attack when they perceive a threat to themselves or their nest. They use the bony spurs in their powerful wings to land smashing blows, at the same time inflicting bites with their large bill.
In 2012, a man was drowned after being attacked by a swan in Des Plaines, just outside Chicago, when the bird knocked him out of his kayak and stopped him swimming to shore. Another swan on the River Cam in England was branded Mr Asbo (a reference to the Anti-Social Behaviour Orders handed out by criminal courts to yobbish humans) when he continually attacked rowers on the river, even capsizing boats. After two years, Mr Asbo was removed from the river, but his grandson, Asbaby, soon took up the ferocious family hobby.
However, such serious attacks on people are very rare according to experts such as John Huston of the Abbotsbury Swannery in Dorset, home to 1,000 mute swans, where there have been no recorded attacks on humans in the colony’s 600-year history.
‘If you approach a swan nest on the river, they might get aggressive and hiss and flap their wings,’ Mr Huston told the BBC. ‘But the danger is over-rated and it’s a myth that they will break your leg or arm with their wings… They are not that strong and it’s mostly show and bluster.’
A Mid Suffolk Council spokesman said that the boat-busting swan on Needham Lake was ‘never considered a danger to the public’, and it was unlikely to be removed, which will appease respondents to the story on the BBC Facebook site, who came out strongly in support of the bird over the boat owners.
‘Moved on’?? How about during the nesting season people keep their daft boats out of his way?’ Louise Latimer wrote. ‘Unlike most people swans mate for life. He is protecting his mate and his babies. Shame more humans don’t take their role this seriously. Leave him alone.’
Such words won’t appease the model-boat owners of Gipping Valley, however. ‘He attacked my boat nearly straight after I put it in,’ the treasurer of the boat club, Cliff Galsworthy, whinged to the East Anglian Daily Times. ‘I have spent about 10 full days trying to repair it. It took about six months to build and he just smashed it to pieces.’
Another anonymous complainant told the paper: ‘I wrote to the Queen telling her the swan is a menace and I would like him to be moved on if possible.’ It’s often said that the British Crown owns all unmarked mute swans, but actually this archaic law only applies to swans on the Thames and its tributaries, and Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, is yet to respond to the drama unfolding in Suffolk.