RSPCA officers worked with Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service to rescue swan from Bottisham Lock, Waterbeach, Cambridge

A female swan with a hook caught in her beak and tongue was rescued from Bottisham Lock, Waterbeach on Wednesday (28 February).

The RSPCA, working with Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, managed to catch the swan who had been eluding capture for a number of days.

The RSPCA was called on Saturday 24 February to reports of a swan on the water with a fishing hook caught in her mouth and line trailing behind her.

Throughout the weekend and the week, officers attended the location and attempted to catch the injured bird but to no avail as she would keep heading out to the middle of the water where she could not be reached. But as the hook was in her tongue, there was a concern she would not be able to feed and would continue to grow weaker.

Two officers were sent again on Wednesday and after a number of hours trying, they contacted Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service to see if there was any chance they might be able to send a boat to help, which they could.

The boat was launched by Cambridge White Watch and the two RSPCA officers Jane Folly and Inspector Jon Knight stayed on the bank to catch the bird. The firefighters actually managed to get the bird in their boat, before passing her to Inspector Knight.

Once caught the bird was examined and it was clear that the hook had gone through her beak and tongue – making it impossible for her to feed.

Inspector Knight said: “Despite her ordeal the swan is doing well. I took her to RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre where the hook was removed. Staff will continue to monitor and give her pain relief, and she will be x-rayed to check that she has not consumed any lead. She is doing well and it is hoped if she continues to improve that she could be returned to her partner next week.”

Animal Welfare Officer Folly said: “Myself and my colleagues spent a number of days trying to catch this swan, but she was still very mobile and would head off to the middle of the water where we couldn’t get her.

“We are so grateful that the fire service were able to come out to rescue this swan as we just wouldn’t have been able to get her without them.

“It was a pretty chilly day and it was blizzard conditions at some points, but we all soon warmed up once we knew that we had managed to catch this beautiful bird and helped her. If she hadn’t have been caught it’s likely she would have eventually died a slow painful death.”

A fire service spokesman added: “The crew worked closely with the RSPCA staff to plan the safest way to help the swan. Wearing specialist in-water dry suits the crew used a rescue boat to retrieve the swan and bring her to the river bank, safely leaving her with the RSPCA staff.”

Sadly we do see a large amount of birds being brought into us with these kind of injuries.  Most anglers do make the effort to retrieve and take home all their fishing line and tackle but sadly some are not so careful, which result in incidents like this.


For more information about disposing of fishing litter properly please visit the RSPCA’s website here.


Top tips include:

● Take unwanted fishing line home and cut it into pieces before putting in the bin.

● Be aware of surrounding trees – discarded line caught in foliage causes problems for wildlife.

● Don’t leave bait unattended – always remove from the hook and put in safe place.

● Use a bait box.

● Dispose of any litter you see, even if it’s not your own.

If you do encounter a wild animal you think needs help, call our 24-hour emergency line on 0300 1234 999 or visit our website at