Swan shot in neck to be euthanised as quality of life 'destroyed'

Kendall Hutt
Source: 1News

A swan shot in the neck will have to be euthanised as its quality of life has been "destroyed".

The swan swaddled with a hot water bottle while outside on the lawn.

The Wellington Bird Rehabilitation Trust (WBRT) has been taking care of the swan after it was discovered in an Ōtaki woman's backyard around three weeks ago.

Founder Craig Shepherd told 1News one of his volunteers had brought it in after the woman - described by Shepherd as a "kind soul" - found it in her backyard.

It is thought the black fully grown male adult may have been shot while flying and "crash landed" there.

Up until recently Shepherd and his team had been treating the swan, named Ōtaki, for lead poisoning.

When Ōtaki was brought in he had treatable symptoms of lead poisoning, Shepherd says. He wasn't able to walk and his head was bobbing.

However, low levels of lead were later found in Ōtaki's blood after testing. The WBRT team then got X-rays taken, revealing what looks to be about 2mm of shot in his neck. It has affected his spinal cord.

There was no sign of a shot wound when Ōtaki was brought in and it hasn't been removed yet.

Shepherd said Ōtaki is not releasable as he is being tube fed every day. He is unable to stand or walk and is continuously swaddled or has towels packed around him to ensure he doesn't roll over.

Ōtaki has poor balance even when he's sitting down.

Although he isn't suffering, Shepherd said the "beautiful big bird" will be euthanised. The shot will then be removed.

It's an "upsetting" development for the team and the vets who have tried to help Ōtaki, Shepherd said.

He said if the "kind soul" hadn't spotted Ōtaki he would have died of starvation, so all in all his rescue was a "good outcome".

An X-ray showing some shot in the swan's neck.

Shepherd told 1News the "very sad situation" is why people shouldn't be shooting birds.

"It's so cruel," he said.

Quality of life 'destroyed'

SAFE chief executive Debra Ashton said the swan's "quality of life will have been destroyed".

"Feeding would have to be via a tube for the rest of the bird's life and they would not be able to forage for food like a normal bird would do."

Ashton said the shooting itself was "unacceptable" and clear evidence not all birds are killed outright or retrieved by hunters.

She said the animal rights organisation is opposed to birds being shot due to the high risk of suffering.

"International studies have shown that 20 to 40% of birds hit by shotgun pellets are never retrieved. In New Zealand this means that 200,000 birds could be suffering prolonged deaths."

The SPCA said it is "saddened" the swan will need to be euthanised due to its injuries.

"While it is hard to know the circumstances of what occurred, SPCA opposes the shooting of animals for sport or recreation where it is done solely as entertainment for people," a spokesperson said.

Swans are considered game birds under the Wildlife Act, the SPCA said, so people are allowed to hunt them.

However, the charity said it advocates animals are only hunted in ways that minimise the negative impact to their welfare.

"When wild animals are killed for food or any other reason, this must be done efficiently and humanely by an experienced and skilled hunter or trapper."