Over 200 mute swans that are now wintering at two lakes in Chortoryia, Kitsman raion, Chernivtsi oblast. The flock is large, and the swans help each other clean their feathers and defend against unkind people and predators, but they cannot withstand the threat of dying from hunger and cold. According to Brusnytsia village council head Ivan ZAHARII, agricultural companies, the Nepolokivtsi Center of Grain Production and tourists help feed the birds. “We have asked enterprises, heads of various institutions and organizations in the raion for help, but there has been no positive answer. The swans can starve to death, because they can barely find food now,” he says.
Mute swans have wintered in Chortoryia for several decades now. During this time, they have come to be adored by the villagers. The locals help them survive in every possible way, but unfortunately they cannot always succeed. In 2008, the village was almost completely flooded. The water broke the village dam and silted up the lakes where the swans spend winters. When winter came around, the water was still silty and the lakes froze up with only a patch of water remaining. On people’s requests, Interior Ministry men melted the ice with hot air. Another calamity struck in summer 2010 when the Cheremosh River overflowed, destroying the lakes and the swans’ nests. But the worst blow was dealt in 2011 when a dry autumn killed many birds.
“We are now feeding the swans. They are so hungry that they snatch bread out of our hands. They often migrate in search of food and return in smaller numbers. One of these birds recently froze to death when its leg was frozen to ice. Two more were injured, one damaging its wings and the other one breaking its leg. Unfortunately, it is not possible to keep feeding the swans on a regular basis, because grain deliveries are irregular. People bring some food, but it is not enough,” Ivan DASKALIUK, a local volunteer who helps take care of the swans, says.
The swans often fly to the Cheremosh River in search of food, but it is yet to be cleared of ice, so most of them starve to death there. These swans were also spotted at the Burshtyn Water Reservoir in Ivano-Frankivsk oblast, because it does not freeze even at 30 degrees below zero. In village Zeleny Hai in Novoselytsia raion, Chernivtsi oblast, two couples of young mute swans settled on the Prut River. The locals believe that these are the swans from Chortoryia which have moved in search of food. “My fellow villagers feed the swans with bread and wheat and pray for them to survive,” Vasyl MIHAI, a resident of Zeleny Hai, says.
Whether the Chortoryia swans survive another winter is an open question. Their only hope now is kind human hearts. If you can help, contact Ivan Zaharii, head of the Brusnytsia village council (Kitsman raion, Chernivtsi oblast) at 0373654321 or fax 0373654310.