Rangers are investigating after one of two swans at St George's Lake in Creswick was left with a gaping neck wound after a suspected dog attack.
Leanne Hart, who has spent hours befriending the swans, noticed something amiss when she visited the birds on Saturday.
"The male kept roughing the feathers on his chest with his beak, then I saw a wasp try to go in to the feathers and realised it wasn't right," she said.
"He let me touch him on the back, and I leaned down to lift up his chest feathers and found a bad wound about size of two hands with a flap of skin hanging down."
Having completed her wildlife rescue training, Ms Hart knew she had to act and managed to contain the swan and convince a stranger to drive them to the vet.
On closer inspection it became apparent the swan was injured in a dog attack, with three large puncture wounds found on the swan's chest. Dogs are supposed to be on-lead at St George's Lake.
A vet from Goldfields Veterinary Service operated on the swan for about 90 minutes to clean and stitch up the wound before the swan was taken to Hepburn Wildlife Shelter to recover.
It is believed the attack had taken place about a week earlier.
"I have been spending time with the swans, especially because there have been a lot of incidents with children and teens particularly being cruel to the swans," she said.
Over the summer months Ms Hart has intervened when she found children throwing rocks at the birds, with their parents watching on, and seen kayakers hitting the female bird with their oars.
She said it was heartbreaking to see the lack of respect for the birds, the first pair of swans to call the lake home for at least 20 years.
"The male, he showed up first then the female showed up a little after him late last year," Ms Hart said. "From what I've been able to find out, swans have not nested on this lake for more than 20 years."
She is now trying to spend time with the female swan, who is fretting for her mate.
"After I took the male on Saturday she kept coming up on the grass looking for him," she said.
Ms Hart has been thinking about becoming a wildlife carer, specialising in swans, so has been spending as much time with the pair at the lake as she can to study their behaviour.
After settling the swan in to the Hepburn Wildlife Shelter, Ms Hart reported the incident to the park ranger, as she has done with other previous incidents she has observed.
“Over the long weekend we were contacted about a black swan that had been reportedly attacked by a dog at St Georges Lake in the Creswick Regional Park,” said ranger Kyra Winduss.
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“As advised by signs at the lake, dogs must be on-lead and under control at all times. This is for the protection of wildlife and the general enjoyment of other visitors.”
She thanked those who helped the swan, and reminded visitors to the area about significant fines that could be imposed for harassing or injuring wildlife.
Anyone who witnesses such incidents can contact the police, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning on 136 186, or Parks Victoria on 131 963.
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