For the nigh on 10 years I have used the Grantham Canal from Gamston through Edwalton and then into Lady Bay – and there have been thriving communities of swans.
The one couple, who generally nest and patrol the Lady Bay side of the canal, usually produce a brood of between five and nine cygnets each year, rarely losing any.
Another couple, one of whom I believe is a son or daughter of the other pair, are young but enthusiastic parents, with another more mature pair nesting each year towards Gamston.
There have, however, been some odd and alarming developments.
Firstly, the main pair in Lady Bay successfully hatched and reared nine cygnets, but out of the blue three disappeared six weeks or so ago.
Now, these cygnets were not fully grown, and could have been predated naturally, but the parents are excellent and to my knowledge have not lost a cygnet in years, if at all, to predation.
About two weeks ago, the second pair, who had raised three cygnets successfully, were suddenly cygnet-less.
The three disappeared overnight. And now, a cygnet of the main pair, which was more or less fully grown, was found with two broken wings and a broken leg, which led to the poor thing having to be put down.
What is even of more concern is that now there are only three remaining cygnets and one adult.
The two missing cygnets and one adult, along with one duck, were found on Sunday morning savaged, presumably by dogs. The cygnets are not expected to survive but hopefully the adult will.
I, for one, find it hard to believe that these losses are the result of natural predation, road accidents or sickness, and has been subsequently found, dogs whether through lack of care by their owners, or by being deliberately set on the swans, are killing these icons of the canal.
With regards to the other missing cygnets, in all cases the disappearances happened literally overnight, and besides the most recent occurrences, there are no bodies, nor evidence of animal attacks, which are quite usual on the footpaths and water of the canal area.
The other cause for alarm is that the main pair of swans are truly excellent and dedicated parents. Many a cyclist and dog walker will vouch for the way the parent swans protect their cygnets.
So what may be happening? I feel that animal cruelty or worse cannot be ruled out.
Although a protected animal in the UK, swans are considered to be a delicacy in parts of Central and Eastern Europe, and there have been reported incidents around the river area concerning nesting swans being killed for meat.
Now, of course, we have evidence that dogs are killing the swans, but when they do attack the swans, they leave the injured and dying animals.
You can’t blame the dogs, but why aren’t their owners controlling them? Or are they being deliberately set upon the swans by the cruel and twisted minds that like to see their animals rip other living animals to pieces?
The RSPCA have been contacted and attended the latest incident, but they are not able to post patrols on the canal 24/7, nor are the police.
The RSPCA have stated that they cannot act without any evidence of cruelty.
Maybe now we have evidence of dogs being the cause of some of the deaths, there will now be action to control dogs along the canal.
The RSPCA has stated that if you see any suspicious behaviour on the canal, please report it to the both the police and the RSPCA.
This may incentivise to investigate thoroughly, stop the idiocy of some dog owners, and stop the appalling destruction of our beloved wildlife. The RSPCA may be contacted 24/7 on 0300 1234 999.
By Roger Murrow