Swan down! This cygnet is the catch of the day

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Talk about the ugly duckling!

Prospect Park’s swans were under attack this weekend as two adults and two cygnets were found with fishing hooks in their beaks and lines around their legs.

“The swans couldn’t fly,” said Ed Bahlman, one of two swan enthusiasts who led the rescue effort. “The injuries had to be dealt with immediately.”

It all started on Monday morning, when Bahlman and partner Anne-Katrin Titze learned of the injured swans and sprang into action.

Bahlman first cut loose Ziggy, a swan who was trapped in the reeds along the lakeshore with a fishing line around its legs.

“It probably had a day [to live] if it wasn’t found,” said Bahlman.

The pair didn’t wait for the Urban Park Rangers to arrive before also rescuing two cygnets — baby swans — with fishing hooks lodged in their beaks. The rangers eventually showed up, but without any nets. After a few hapless attempts to wrangle the last swan — affectionately known as Honey Bear — who’s upper left leg had been hooked, the rangers left, vowing to return the next day.

Finally on Tuesday, the rangers arrived at the lake — nets in hand — and freed the water fowl, which just minutes later could be seen triumphantly flying above the lake, giving park-goers a thrill.

“We had four successful outcomes,” said Bahlman.

The culprits in this incident appear to be outlaw fishers, as barbed hooks — which are forbidden in the park — were found in some of the swans.

It is illegal to injure birds, which could be the reason that fishermen rarely report such incidents.

Eugene Patron, a spokesman for the Prospect Park Alliance, said that the park has tried to make fishermen more aware of the rules.

This certainly wasn’t the first time that man and bird clashed at the park’s lake. In June, a goose was found with an arrow in its neck. And just weeks ago, federal agents exterminated about 250 park geese in the name of aviation safety.

Updated 2:38 pm, October 19, 2011
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