Hooked swans rescued in Prospect Park

SWAN SEASON: A swan with a fishing hook through its beak.
Photo by Anne-Katrin Titze

They’ve got the hook!

A trio of swans living in Prospect Park Lake were saved by humans after getting stuck by barbed fishing hooks carelessly tossed into the water by anglers who aren’t supposed to be using them, park watchdogs say.

Two of the birds were saved by park workers, but a third was spotted with a hook through its beak, then captured and treated by Anne-Katrin Titze and her trusty sidekick Ed Bahlman, in the latest waterfowl rescues by the dynamic duo.

For years, Titze, a wildlife rehabilitator licensed by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, and Bahlman have been looking out for the waterfowl at Prospect Park, and saving them when they get hooked.

It’s illegal to use barbed hooks while fishing at the lake, yet all the swans rescued in the past week were found with barbed hooks in their beaks or feet, according to Titze. Signs posted by the Prospect Park Alliance warn fisherman to this rule and others, these swans are the latest victims in a long series of waterfowl-related hookings dating back to 2009 .

Fishing in the lake is legal with a license, and the park has bins for anglers to discard hooks and line, but Titze says too often fisherman are careless with their tackle, and non-fish end up suffering.

And only one thing is going to save the air-breathing creatures from getting hurt.

“Serious enforcement of fishing regulations is the answer,” said Titze. “If fishing is allowed to continue in the park, it has to be done responsibly and the common sense rules need to be enforced.”

She said park rangers need to check anglers 16 or older to see if they have fishing licenses and that they aren’t using those barbed hooks and lures.

The Prospect Park Alliance, which oversees the park’s day-to-day operations, said it hasn’t received any reports of swans being hooked recently. According to Alliance spokesman Paul Nelson, the group works hard to keep Prospect Park Lake a safe place, even though it doesn’t have the authority to enforce fishing regulations. The Alliance offers activities and programs all year round to teach kids and adults about the nature and wildlife in Prospect Park, including about fishing.

“We have a long commitment to educating future fishermen,” said Nelson.

Parks Department officials said anyone who sees illegal fishing taking place should immediately call 311 and report it.

All the swans are recovering nicely.

The Prospect Park swans weren’t the only ones to be saved from possible death this week. In Sheepshead Bay, a swan with lead poisoning was found paralysed on Emmons Avenue. Specialists say it may have been poisoned by ingesting lead shots carelessly tossed into the water by fishermen.

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