The inside story on how Achilles was saved

The inside story on how Achilles was saved
Photo by Anne-Katrin Titze

A swan with an illegal barbed fishhook through its foot was saved from a painful fate by two wildlife enthusiasts on Friday, in the latest clash between waterfowl and Prospect Park fishermen.

Park watchdogs Anne-Katrin Titze and Ed Bahlman first noticed last week that their beloved cygnet had three barbed hooks through its webbed foot that was trailing a 10-foot-long fishing line.

They dubbed the gray cygnet Achilles, after the legendary Greek warrior with the tragically weak ankle.

The pair then hatched a plan to capture Achilles and remove the hook — at whatever cost.

“We waited for him to jump out of the water to preen himself and I got in between him and the lake and grabbed him,” said Bahlman. “He squealed like a pig.”

Bahlman held the panicked bird from behind while Titze — a licensed wildlife rehabilitator — swooped in with a pair of pliers and removed the hook, which still had a tiny shred of fowl-flesh on it hours later.

By Sunday, Achilles was back to his normal self, flying and feeding on breadcrumbs given to him by park-goers (which is against park rules, by the way).

A spokesman for Prospect Park, Eugene Patron, was thrilled that the couple had removed the hook from the swan.

“That’s great,” said Patron.

He added that fishermen “should follow all the rules and not use barbed hooks. … Thousands of people enjoy fishing at the park and most do so responsibly.”

Still, this is far from the first time hooked waterfowl have been an issue in the park.

Last winter, park-goers sounded the alarm on a stunning array of fishing-related injuries to park waterfowl, including the beloved “Beaky,” a goose that was missing the top half of its beak — likely due to a fishhook.

Beaky is thought to have been swept up in the citywide goose massacre by federal agents in July.

And in August, the Parks Department admitted that it had not issued a single fishing-related summons last year — despite the widespread concerns.