Swan attack nearly drowns whitebaiter

MICHELLE SUTTON
Last updated 13:00 16/10/2012
Sarah Derecourt
Fairfax NZ
FED UP: Sarah Derecourt was whitebaiting near her home beside the Maitai River when she was attacked by the white swan Aragorn.
Aragon
BULLY BIRD: Aragorn the swan has a habit of attacking people near the Matai River, and calls have been made for him to be relocated elsewhere.
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A woman attacked by Nelson's aggressive swan Aragorn has described how she almost drowned and was left swollen and bruised.

Sarah Derecourt said she was whitebaiting at the back of her Halifax East property, overlooking the Maitai River, her back was turned, when the swan attacked.

"I turned around and it jumped up onto me. At the same time it was kicking me and bit me on the back and I tripped on my whitebait net and fell back into the river.

"Then it jumped on top of me and grabbed my neck with its beak . . . then it started kicking the heck out of me and pushing me under the water with its feet.

"It was sitting on top of me and it's really heavy. I was a bit stunned at first and then I was pushing its neck away from me."

Unable to breathe as the swan pushed her under water, Mrs Derecourt said she started struggling for real and eventually got away, clambering out of the water.

Two friends were with her when the attack took place last Wednesday. All the while a family looked on from across the river, saying they were disgusted with her behaviour because she could have hurt the swan, Mrs Derecourt said.

The swan had previously had a go at her while she whitebaited. The swan had also had a go at her two daughters, 9 and 14, who no longer went kayaking or swimming in the river.

This morning, a whitebaiter who frequented the area said he had seen the swan attack several people in kayaks and boats or children playing by the river.

"The other day I saw it try and fly into a tree to get children on the branches. It's a nuisance, one day it's going to take a child's eye out."

Both he and Mrs Derecourt said the swan needed to be relocated.

"I don't want to be the woman who gets rid of the swan, but if it was a child rather than me he attacked they would have serious injuries."

Faint bruises can still be seen on her jaw and on her upper arm and she has been taking pain relief to reduce the swelling and tender areas on her face.

The Nelson City Council was notified on Friday, but told Mrs Derecourt there was nothing it could do.

Nelson SPCA animal inspector Craig Crowley today said he was disappointed by the attack, but the decision to remove the swan from the Maitai River came down to the Conservation Department.

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His personal view was that the swan should be put with other swans in a different environment.

In July the swan was bitten by a dog and taken to Natureland zoo at Tahunanui for two weeks to recover. It was then released back into the Maitai River.

- The Nelson Mail

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