By Heather Abrey
Kitchener Post staff
The Victoria Park swan died from a naturally occurring parasite, according to an autopsy performed at the University of Guelph.
The city came under fire in September after one of two swans in Victoria Park died while onlookers phoned the City of Kitchener and the KW Humane Society for help, to no avail.
An independent animal rehabilitator responded to residents’ calls for help, but by the time she arrived the swan was dead. She took the body to the University of Guelph for an autopsy, which is expected to cost the city less than $1,500.
According to a city staff report, the swan was carrying a parasite called schistosome, which naturally occurs in gulls, ducks and geese. While it does not harm those animals, in the swan it caused brain inflammation, which lead to the animal’s death. In humans, schistosome causes swimmer’s itch, a normally mild rash.
The schistosome parasite can be found floating freely in lakes and ponds, or in hosts like waterfowl, birds and snails.
The report also clarified the role the Humane Society played in the failure to respond to calls about the ill swan.
A previous city report indicated that residents told the city’s communication staff that the Humane Society had been called. According to the report, city staff believed the Humane Society would respond and the swan was in good hands.
“Shortly after this message was received, the supervisor was in direct contact with the Humane Society and it was then noted that the Humane Society did not respond, as the swan was property of the City of Kitchener,” the previous report stated.
However, Humane Society director Jack Kinch took issue with this representation, and the city has now clarified that the Humane Society immediately contacted communications centre staff, and were incorrectly told not to respond because city staff members were already on the way.
The Humane Society officer offered to attend the swan on two separate occasions — once to communications centre staff and once to a park supervisor who called to follow up.
The pair of swans would normally spend the winter at Waterloo Park, but the remaining swan, which bonded closely with its partner, will be wintered in Stratford this year.
Swans can be aggressive with each other, so same-sex pairs like the one in Victoria Park are generally chosen based on how well they get along, according to Greg Hummel, the city’s manager of parks.
City staff hope the remaining swan will bond with one of the many swans in Stratford over the winter.