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Firefighters called for swan trapped on ice

January 11, 2012 - Brandon Twp.- Dogs, horses, and deer trapped in ice-covered lakes and ponds in the township have prompted calls to the fire department in the past.

Jan. 4, however, was the first time Fire Chief Dave Kwapis had ever been summoned to rescue a swan.

A concerned Bald Eagle Lake resident called the fire department in the early evening to report a young swan that was immobile about 25 to 50 feet off shore. Upon the approach of firefighters to the lakeshore, the bird moved to the other side of the lake, but did not take flight.

"It looked like it was favoring one leg and with just us walking to the shore, it scattered and flapped around and got to the other side," Kwapis said. "We contacted the DNR and they told us there was nothing we or they could do for the swan. Swans are aggressive and their wings are dangerous. If anyone tried to do anything for the swan, that person could become injured or fall through the ice."

Kwapis notes that usually by the time firefighters arrive to calls regarding struggling deer, the animals have found their way out. But the DNR does not respond for deer on, or in ice, either, he said.

A DNR wildlife specialist did not immediately return calls for comment.

Kwapis said firefighters have rescued horses out of ponds and dogs out of lakes.

"Some dogs have bit us, because they don't know what will happen, and those are tame animals," he noted. "Now you're dealing with a wild animal, very unpredictable and you don't know what they will do. We don't want residents to try and rescue them, they could hurt you. I feel for the animals, but by the same token, you've got to be smart about what you're doing."

Kwapis noted that his bigger concern right now is the safety of residents around the ice. Unseasonably warm temperatures have made for thin, unsafe ice on the area's lakes and ponds. He cautions that residents who want to go ice fishing need to wait for a spell of cold weather, with a lot of good, clear ice, not white or honeycombed. A good rule of thumb, Kwapis said, is 5- to 6-inches of ice.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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