British Columbia

Lost Lagoon's last mute swans have new home in animal sanctuary

With only three of the birds still living in the park, down from 70 in the 1960s, the Vancouver Park board has moved the remaining birds to an unspecified 10-acre animal sanctuary.

There were as many as 70 swans in Lost Lagoon in the 1960s; now, the last 3 have a new home

In the 1960s, up to 70 swans called Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park home. Now, the last three have been moved to an animal sanctuary. (CBC)

The last mute swans in Stanley Park's Lost Lagoon have flown the coop.

With only three of the birds still living in the park, down from 70 in the 1960s, the Vancouver Park board has moved the remaining birds to an unspecified 10-acre animal sanctuary.

The move comes after a fourth was recently killed by river otters.

"They're elderly birds, to start with," said park ranger Mike McIntosh. "The idea of retirement is a good thing for everybody, including swans, so it was nice for them to go some place where they can basically live out their lives in comfort."

"They're not going to have the risks of predation, and of course they'll be well cared for in terms of their food and water quality and everything else. So I think they're going to have a really nice, quiet life as they live out their years."

'They would battle quite often'

McIntosh started working at Stanley Park in 1965, when he says the park was more "managed."

He says the then-curator grew up in England, where the mute swans are native, and brought numerous breeding pairs to Stanley Park.

"We would compress their territory every year," he said. "And that was quite a challenge because mute swans are quite territorial, so they would battle quite often."

McIntosh says since the highest population of 70 birds in the 1960s, swan numbers have been allowed to decline.

Birds that died of old age were not replaced and many were preyed upon by increasing numbers of raccoons and other animals in the park.

In the past decade Lost Lagoon has been going in a more natural direction, McIntosh said.

Park caretakers now favour native plants and animals over imported species like mute swans.

Among those native species, he said, are species like trumpeter swans and tundra swans that stop over in Stanley Park when migrating.

"I shouldn't worry that we've seen the last of swans here," he said.

'They could live longer than me'

Anna Dean is the swan's new caretaker on her 10-acre property in the Lower Mainland.

The swans are adjusting, but she predicts they will enjoy their new home, surrounded by seven-foot fences and ponds thick with their preferred food, duckweed.

"I've kept swans since 1988 … I just really love swans," said Dean.

"I just want to give them a good retirement home and hopefully they stay safe here."

Dean is even preparing her own swan song.

If she dies before the swans are gone she says she has written a clause in her will bequeathing the animals to a caretaker with more "swan experience" than she has.

It's only practical, she explains, "They could live longer than me."

The average mute swan lives about 12 to 20 years, but individuals have been known to live up to 40 years, lasting longer in a protective environment.

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