Nicky Smiley shields the swan from the sun as they await the arrival of Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society personnel. Photo by Ella Smiley

Nicky Smiley shields the swan from the sun as they await the arrival of Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society personnel. Photo by Ella Smiley

Comox Valley’s community swan back in rehab

The wild swan that has endeared itself to an entire community is back in rehab.

The swan, which has become the Comox Valley’s ‘unofficial’ bird, has been observed and tracked by photographers and nature lovers alike since it was first spotted in the area last summer.

Back then, the swan had a broken wing, and the Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society was getting regular calls from concerned residents, advising MARS representatives of its activities.

“She was actually at the Little River Nature Park originally, and was unable to migrate last year,” said MARS rehab manager Gyl Andersen, in a previous interview. “We had sightings reported to us throughout the summer – mostly people just checking in and letting us know how she is doing.”

MARS volunteers finally caught up with the swan and brought it to the wildlife centre for a winter of rehab.

RELATED: Rehabilitated swan released into Courtenay estuary

The swan was released back into the Courtenay estuary in the spring, and eventually found its way back to the Little River Nature Park. On Thursday, July 22, the Smiley family saw it and became concerned.

“We arrived at Little River Nature Park yesterday to find our feathery friend sat on the bank in the full day sun. It was straight away obvious that she was not doing too well,” said Ella Smiley who, along with her family, manages the Comox Valley Wildlife Sightings Facebook page. “We noticed a little while ago that she was holding her (left) leg on her back strangely and differently to her right leg. Today (July 23) she did not even attempt to move away. We called MARS Wildlife Rescue Centre who were amazing! They sent a very efficient gent out to get her. They arrived super fast and he scooped her up with immense care. So back to MARS she goes to be checked out. We hope she is going to be okay, we have grown very fond of this white feathered beauty!”

‘Swanny Jo’ – as, according to MARS, the swan has been affectionately dubbed – is back in care at MARS, and this rehab process will take some time.

“Her left ankle is very swollen – it appears infected, so she was unable to get up and walk around,” said Anderson when contacted by The Record Saturday morning. “I think it’s possible that she stepped on something, or she might even have a little thorn or something in there. It does feel like there is something encased in the infection. So it was probably a puncture wound or a foreign body that entered in there.”

Anderson said surgery is not out of the question.

“It (rehab) will be a while. She will be on antibiotics for a couple of weeks, and then she might need some surgery to remove all the infected material from the foot. Then she will have to recuperate. We want her to not be limping or anything when we return her to the wild.”

Anderson said the chances of rehab are “fairly good at this point. We are always a bit guarded but we think she will make a full recovery.”

Anderson said she has never come across a wild animal that has captured the heart of a community the way Swanny Jo has.

“It seems that everybody knows about her, watches over her, so it’s really quite a unique situation.”

Swanny Jo never did regain the ability to fly, so she will not be migrating this winter, which could be cause for concern.

“She fully moulted all her feathers, so she should have been able to… but she has not been able to fly,” said Anderson. “She might have to over-winter here (at MARS) again, unless we can make sure that she has the support she needs over the winter in the wild. But it does sound like she is pretty much a permanent resident of the Little River area.”

And a temporary resident at MARS. Again.
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AnimalsComox Valley


The swan seeks shelter. Its left leg is exposed awkwardley. Photo by Ella Smiley.