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Could Castle Archdale swan have been killed by a pike?

A swan enjoying a paddle on Lough Erne

A BIZARRE incident occurred last week in Lower Lough Erne, just off Castle Archdale Country Park that resulted in the death of a swan from injuries inflicted, it is claimed, by a monster pike. 

The peg, one of six resident adult birds, was rescued from the lake, still alive and brought to a veterinary practice in Irvinestown but, nothing could be done for it.

Catherine McCann, a vet with Three Valleys veterinary Group, quickly decided the swan was beyond professional help.

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“It was in quite a stoical state, with not much life left. Its injuries were quite brutal. Its bottom jaw was missing, basically and one of its eyes was damaged.” According to eye witnesses, the swan dipped under the water to feed and, when it resurfaced, a pike estimated to be between 3-4 feet long, had its jaws clamped around the bird’s head.

A maintenance officer employed in the park, alerted by an angler, stated: “I saw the swan in the water. Its eye was gone and its whole bottom jaw was hanging off. You could see the swallowing tube in its neck moving up and down. The angler pointed in the water and I saw the pike swim away.”

The man, said it was the first time, to his memory, of a pike attack on a swan in the lake.7

“I’ve seen pike taking young ducklings, but I never thought they would attack a swan.”

Park staff contacted the RSPB who put them in touch with wildlife rescuer, Debbie Nelson. She drove all the way from Dundrod, and, two hours later, the swan was on its way to the vet’s.

Likewise, Ms Nelson had never heard of a similar attack. “Pike are ambush hunters and they will take small birds, ducklings, moorhens and other fish, but not this. Whether it was just an aggressive pike or a large one that didn’t realise the size of the swan, it’s hard to say.”

The vet, Ms McCann said Ms Nelson was, like her, concerned, for the swan’s welfare. “But, there was nothing could be done. I have been a vet here for four years and this is the first case of a bird injured by an animal.”

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Eddie McGovern, a tourism development officer with Fermanagh & Omagh council, said he had never heard of a pike attacking an animal other than a fish. He is synonymous with promoting major angling events in Fermanagh.

“Theoretically, it is probable they will go after something that it figures out to be a target but, to be honest, I’ve never heard of any incidents like that.

“There are plenty of pike in the lake, in fact their numbers have increased over the last number of years. They’re very popular with Continental anglers who are very keen in pike fishing.

“There are also plenty of swans, especially at the Round O and places like that. They tend to congregate where there are people, but I would have thought there is sufficient food for the pike.”

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 28 Belmore Street, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, BT74 6AA