North·SWAN WATCH

This 'very feisty' Fort Liard swan is not happy — here's why that's a good thing

The injured swan, spotted walking into the N.W.T. town earlier this month, is recovering from suspected frostbite at the Wildlife Rescue Association of B.C.

Injured swan was rescued by Fort Liard woman, sent to B.C. for treatment

This feisty swan was discovered trapped in ice outside Fort Liard. It's since made its way to a B.C. wildlife rescue where it's receiving treatment for frostbite. (Submitted by Environment and Natural Resources)

The swan that "commandeered" a Fort Liard, N.W.T. woman's bedroom earlier this month hasn't changed a bit.

The "feisty" swan has been transported to Burnaby, B.C., where it's receiving treatment for injuries it sustained while trapped in the ice of Hay Lake, near Fort Liard.

"He, or she — we actually don't know — is very feisty," said Linda Bakker, the co-executive director of the Wildlife Rescue Association of BC, a bird and bat sanctuary where the swan is being rehabilitated.

"She really makes us work hard."

The swan was discovered stuck in frozen lake ice earlier this month by Fort Liard's Laura Diamond-c. After it was freed, a neighbour spotted it walking into town. Diamond-c took it into her bedroom — which it promptly "commandeered."

"He didn't want anyone to disturb him while he's in there sleeping," she said at the time.

Laura Diamond-c took the swan back to her house in Fort Liard after it was spotted walking through the town. It promptly 'comandeered' her bedroom. (Submitted by Laura Diamond-c)

An officer with the territory's department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) collected the swan from Diamond-c, and personally delivered it to a vet in Fort St. John, B.C. From there, it travelled to the B.C. wildlife rescue association in Victoria, which received the swan last week.

Bakker said in addition to "superficial wounds" on the swan's wings, they suspect it has suffered frostbite on its legs and feet from being trapped in ice.

That means doing "wound management every day," Bakker said — and on a feisty swan, no less.

"She's really strong. And that's okay," she said. "We just have a lot of hands-on-deck when we need to handle the swan."

Besides the occasional manhandling, the swan seems to have it made.

"She's in one of our bigger outdoor enclosures, with a big pool, and she loves to swim a lot," said Bakker.

But that doesn't mean it's happy.

"She's not happy in care, which is a good thing," Bakker said. It's a sign the swan isn't used to captivity, and will be more likely to succeed in the wild.

Julian Sabourin, a renewable resources officer with the territory's Department of Environment and Natural Resources, says friendly urban foxes like this one should be kept as wild as possible. (Caitlin Taylor/CBC)

Don't try this at home: ENR

Julian Sabourin, a renewable resources officer with ENR, delivered an update on the swan's condition to the audience of Trail's End on Thursday's show.

But he also stressed that if future residents encounter injured animals, their first call should be to ENR.

"This swan is a wild animal, and ENR is trained to deal with wild animals," he said.

Sabourin said what Diamond-c did is technically illegal — and could carry fines of up to $50,000.

"There's a lot of respect and passion for animals in the North," said Sabourin. "I think when people see animals that look to be a bit down on their luck, people have really good intentions to help them. But the best way to help an animal is to give it its space."

Swan could be released this winter

Bakker said it's still "really up in the air" whether the swan's injuries improve or worsen over the next few weeks. She expects the swan to be in treatment for at least "a couple of months."

"And with a swan as feisty as this one, as soon as it's healthy, it doesn't want to be in care at all," she said. "So we can't keep it longer than necessary ... because then it might injure itself in care."

"To release it back into the wild, that's our number-one goal," she said. "And we have high hopes that that will happen."

Luckily, the rescue is located near a winter habitat for swans, meaning the release should be easy.

"We'll find a flock, and release it right into that flock," said Bakker. "Then they can all migrate north for the summer."

In the meantime, Bakker has an opportunity to bond with her reluctant patient — but hopefully, not too much.

"We don't name the animals," she said. "We don't want to get too attached."

"It's hard not to get attached to a bird like this ... But we do our best."

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