NEW BETHLEHEM – Area residents who plan to use the Red Bank Creek as part of their summer activities are urged to keep a watchful eye for territorial wildlife.
In a series of recent social media posts, a number of local residents expressed concern over the seemingly increasing aggressive behavior of the family of swans that have made a home on and around Red Bank Creek in New Bethlehem.
The most extensive account was provided by Bobby Bowersox of Porter Township in a May 31 Facebook post, in which he described an unpleasant encounter between his wife and one of the mute swans the day before.
According to the post, Bowersox’s wife, Cheryl, and two friends were finishing a kayak trip on Red Bank Creek from Hawthorn to New Bethlehem when they were “followed and repeatedly attacked by a mute swan.” In a series of events that followed, Cheryl Bowersox was forced out of her kayak into the deep water — losing her paddle in the process. The bird continued to pursue the threesome as they eventually made it out of the water and safely back to their vehicle.
Although his wife was wearing the proper floatation device at the time of the attack and only suffered minor injuries, Bowersox said the outcome could have been much different, especially if children or elderly adults would have been involved.
“Unfortunately, this is not the only incident we are aware of with the aggressive swans,” Bowersox wrote, noting that the creek serves as a vital recreational attraction drawing tourists and other out-of-towners to the Redbank Valley community. “However, these majestic creatures seem to be more of a deterrent than a much needed attraction.”
While he understands that the aggressive male swan was probably only protecting his mate and newly hatched family from a possible intruder, Bowersox continued that he would hate to see the animals “become a liability for our community.”
Over the course of the last week, Bowersox’s post garnered comments from more than 30 local residents expressing their own concerns by detailing accounts of similar attacks, and offering possible solutions for the problem.
“I was attacked in much the same way two weeks ago,” A. Kaycee Eesmom wrote on Bowersox’s post, explaining that one of the swans got into her boat twice during the incident. “The male is aggressive. I understand he has a female/eggs/young ones to protect, but there is a difference between protections and unprovoked aggression.”
Residents Melissa Blose, Shawna McHenry and Sheila Moore agreed, all writing of similar unprovoked incidents that occurred over the last year. While taking pictures along the creek, Moore said the male swan came after her husband and “tried to bite him and used his wing to bat at his legs.”
She added that although the swans are an attraction to the area, she fears they could be a costly one.
“...Something needs to be done,” Moore said. “I hate to see them being removed but they are definitely a liability, not just now with babies, but all year.”
Several other residents suggested possible solutions for dealing with the swans, such as placing warning signage along the creek, alerting the Game Commission or even avoiding the part of the creek where the birds reside.
“If they are attacking people they need to be removed,” Sherry Reinsel said, noting that creek users should not have to cut their trips short because of a few nonnative birds.
Others said the swans are just doing what wild animals do to protect their young.
“You are going into his home,” Blake Hiniderliter IV wrote, adding that he didn’t want to see any harm come to the swans. “Boat through my home and see what happens.”
Bowersox said last Friday that the overwhelming response to his Facebook post indicates “there is a problem with the swans, as well as a growing concern among the community.”
“I am certain the individuals responsible for introducing the swans to our community only intended for them to be an asset, rather than become aggressive or do any harm,” he said. “Unfortunately, now that there is a problem, I’m hopeful they take action before someone is seriously injured.”
Bowersox said that adding signage to the creek warning of the swans “would be a nice start.”
After hearing reports that someone had been injured and others threatened by the swans, New Bethlehem Borough Council president Sandy Mateer said last week that the council is looking into the situation.
“We will contact those involved with the swans and possibly the Game Commission to see what can be done about the aggressive male swan,” Mateer said.