Attacker swan Aragorn found dead

ARA-GONE: Aragorn pictured just before his capture on the Maitai River.
ARA-GONE: Aragorn pictured just before his capture on the Maitai River.

The white swan Aragorn has died three weeks after being moved from Nelson's Maitai River to Kaikoura.

The Department of Conservation said Aragorn was found dead at his new home at an animal farm park by the park owner on Tuesday night. There was no sign of injury and he was found in a peaceful position on a pond.

DOC staff moved the swan on October 23 to the park out of concern for his welfare and safety and for public safety. It followed the swan attacking a woman whitebaiter on the Maitai River the previous week.

Aragorn had also been attacked. In July, the swan was treated by a veterinarian after being bitten several times by a dog and then taken by the SPCA to Natureland Zoo to recover before being released back on the river.

There had been previous incidents of aggressive territorial behaviour towards people by the swan at this time of the year when it is the breeding season.

DOC acting Motueka area manager Brian Paton said today the death was gutting, but there were no obvious signs of the cause of Aragorn's death.

"He lost some weight, which often does happen when birds are moved as they take time to adjust to a new environment, including in foraging for food. In DOC, we frequently move native birds to new locations as part of measures to increase their populations and prevent species' extinction. For the most part birds do settle into their new homes and thrive there in time."

Mr Paton said Aragon was being kept in a quiet paddock away from the public to give him time to adjust to his new surroundings, which was advised when moving swans and other birds. The swan was being regularly checked.

He had been calm, showing no sign of distress, and he moved around the large paddock he had been placed in and between two ponds there.

"The Kaikoura Adventure Park was selected from several options for placement of Aragorn as we considered it offered the best situation in the interests of his welfare. We are confident it offered a caring environment for him."

The park owner had veterinary training and wide experience with wildlife, including black swans that had been moved there.

SPCA senior inspector Craig Crowley said today he believed DOC had made the right decision in shifting the swan because of what had happened on the Maitai river.

"He was by himself and he was open to abuse by some sections of the community and he caused problems himself."

Sarah Derecourt, the Nelson woman who was attacked while whitebaiting, said news of the swan's death was awful.

After the attack she said the swan needed to be moved.

"I thought it would be better for him, that he would go somewhere with a more relaxing existence. It's a real shame," she said today.

Fyffe View Adventure Park owner Linda Pharazyn said they were deeply saddened.

During his time at the park Aragorn had seemed happy enough and had not shown any reclusive or pining behaviour. He had wandered about, exploring and grazing, she said.

On a trip past the pond she had seen Aragorn floating as if sleeping with his head tucked under his wing, but when she made a noise he did not move.

"The thing was he was in a sleeping position. There was no sign of trauma at all," she said.

Aragorn has been buried on the farm.