Wildlife experts shocked as swan is savaged by pike at beauty spot Castle Archdale
They may be able to break a person's arm with their wing, but a swan at Castle Archdale Country Park proved no match for the bully of the deep.
A super-sized pike savaged the female bird - one of six resident adults known to breed in the Co Fermanagh beauty spot - to such an extent it had to be put down.
According to eyewitnesses, the swan dipped under the water to feed, and when it resurfaced, had one of the fast-moving, predatory beasts clamped to its head.
The pike was estimated to have been between three and four feet in length. The attack ruptured the swan's right eye and ripped its entire lower bill off its face, as well as tearing open its throat.
A Castle Archdale maintenance man, who didn't want to be named, was at the scene on Lough Erne within minutes.
"An angler shouted over to me, and I saw the swan in the water," he said.
"Its eye was gone, its whole bottom jaw was hanging off and you could see the swallowing tube in its neck moving up and down.
"The angler pointed in the water, and I saw the pike swimming away."
This is thought to be the first record of a pike, which have razor-sharp teeth and can grow to be six feet long, striking a swan inthe park.
"I've often seen a duck with a leg missing, which might have been caused by a pike, and I've seen pike taking young ducklings," the man said.
"But I never thought they would attack a swan."
Park staff rang Irvinestown's Three Valleys Vets on Wednesday evening, but they were unable to catch the frightened and severely injured swan. The RSPB put them in contact with Dundrod-based wildlife rescuer Debbie Nelson, who attended the scene.
"I put crates, towels and a huge net in the car, and off I went," Miss Nelson said. "When I got there two hours later, the sight was stomach-turning.
"Pike are ambush hunters and will take small birds, ducklings, moorhens and other fish. I've never heard of them going for something this size.
"Whether it was just an aggressive pike, or a large one who didn't realise the size of the body of the swan, it's hard to say. I think pike are our crocodiles - they seem to do as much damage."
Miss Nelson took the swan to the vets', but sadly, it was in too bad a state to be treated and had to be put to sleep.