09/13/11 2:26pm
09/13/2011 2:26 PM

When kayaker Jim MacDougall of Wading River found an injured swan near Indian Island County Park in Riverhead this July, he thought the bird had a branch sticking out its body.

He paddled a little closer and soon realized why the bird was barely moving — someone had shot an arrow through its torso.

The middle school music teacher trapped the usually aggressive animal between the bow of the vessel and his paddle without much conflict. He used his free hand to call authorities.

“He couldn’t even climb up onto the island, he was that injured,” Mr. McDougall said Tuesday from Indian Island. “I got him to that one spot. He was really calm.”

The bird, which was rescued under the County Road 105 bridge, was then brought to the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons in Hampton Bays. At first, the prognosis didn’t look good. It couldn’t walk for weeks and though the arrow had missed all vital organs, caretakers suspected nerve damage.

Its rescuers didn’t even name him.

“We’d be too sad if he died,” said Virginia Frati, the center’s executive director.

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But on a sunny September day, nearly two months after it was found, the swan looked no worse for the wear. On Tuesday the bird, who had been completely rehabilitated, was carried to the Peconic Bay in a plastic bin, wrapped in a burlap sack.

Peaking its head out of the container to look at the swarm of reporters and photographers surrounding it, the swan was quiet and docile as it awaited its return to the wild.

The swan, estimated to be about a year old, was freed and it made its way to a marsh off Indian Island golf course. It was finally returned to the waterway, where it will most likely find a lifelong mate and live out the rest of its years.

“You see so many horror stories and so many bad things, people say ‘how can you [work for this agency]‘” said Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Chief Roy Gross, which is still hunting the swan’s attacker. “This makes it worth it.”

Though this story has a happy ending, Chief Gross noted that two other animals cruelty victims were not so lucky. A turtle found with a nail hammered through its shell in Sag Harbor in July is not faring well and a sea gull that had been hit with a rock in Montauk had died.

He noted the incidents may be related.

The SPCA is still pursuing charges against whomever shot the swan, he said. Animal cruelty is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.

The Suffolk SPCA is offering a $14,750 reward for anyone with information leading to an arrest in the swan case and $16,000 in the turtle case. The agency is able to offer such a high reward due to a large amount of donations that poured in after photos of the swan ran throughout regional news outlets, horrifying viewers, yet at the same time motivating them to help the investigation along.

Though the swan returned to the wild nameless, Chief Gross had one suggestion for a moniker.

“We should call him Lucky,” he said.

vchinese@timesreview.com

VERA CHINESE PHOTO | This swan, which was found with an arrow shot through its body in July, was completely rehabilitated and returned to the wild Tuesday.

04/14/11 1:20am
04/14/2011 1:20 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Couny legislator Ed Romaine stands in front of an old dredge spoil dumping area at Indian Island Park which the county is now planning to dredge.

For nearly 30 years, when Suffolk County dredged waterways on the East End, much of the dredge spoil was deposited in a seven-acre area at Indian Island County Park in Riverhead.

And officials say that when it rained, contaminants from that dredge spoil leached into nearby Terry Creek, a tributary of Peconic Bay.

The dumping of dredge spoil began in 1947 and continued until 1975, according to County Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches).

Now, Mr. Romaine says, the county has a plan to remove some 25,000 cubic yards of dredge spoil and cut a new channel to the creek.

“This will reduce the amount of contaminants that flow into the bay from this dredge spoil site and recreate a marsh system that was here previously by connecting this area to Terry Creek,” Mr. Romaine said.

“This also will potentially help to eliminate an existing mosquito problem that we have here,” he added, “because the water is not free-flowing. When you open it up to the creek, you have a tidal flow, and it’s hard for mosquitoes to breed in water that’s flowing.”

The spoil, piped into the site over the years, is now so thick that water can’t seep through it and the area sometimes looks like a pond, according to county parks department employee Nick Gibbons.

Mr. Romaine said it’s not known what contaminants the spoil contains. He said it probably contains phosphates and nitrogen from fertilizer, and contamination from gasoline and agricultural chemicals, but will have to be tested to determine where it should be taken once it’s removed from the site.

Removal would involve scooping up the spoil and carting it to an out of town landfill approved for such materials, then breaking down a dike surrounding the dredge site so that a new channel can be created connecting it to the creek, Mr. Gibbons said. Some trees would have to be removed and a culvert installed so a walking path could be created on the site, Mr. Romaine said.

The new cut will probably be about 20 feet wide and about a quarter-mile long, he said.

Funding for the project will come from a $900,000 state Environmental Facilities Corporation grant and the county’s quarter-center sales tax, which is used for environmental projects, Mr. Romaine said. The total cost will be about $1.2 million, he said.

The project still needs approval from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and will then have to be put out to bid, so the exact starting time isn’t certain, Mr. Romaine said. He said he was hoping work could begin this year.

tgannon@timesreview.com