There's a young swan in my local park. He is young and I don't see his parents around. The young swan isn't affraid of humans and one can easily feed him from one's hand, and even pet on his head.

But I think that the swan has too much faith in humanity, and someone evil (or an excited toddler) can easily hurt the swan.

Should I try to spook the swan without hitting him? This way he will learn to avoid humans.

Am I wrong, and this would be bad for the swan? Or maybe this is a non-issue, and I'm just overthinking?

I googled relevant questions, but I only get answers "how to train bird to trust you" etc.

  • $\begingroup$ The way I see it, if you were to try to "spook" the swan (which, for the record, I don't recommend), you would be one person trying to teach it one lesson ("Don't mess with humans, we're dangerous!") while the vast majority of the humans it interacts with would be implicitly teaching it the exact opposite. Which do you think would be the lesson that sticks? Scaring it also has the potential of stimulating it to act defensively or aggressively towards the next human it encounters, which could end badly. I suggest engaging your local wildlife protection authority and getting them involved. $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Nov 24, 2022 at 18:46

1 Answer 1


+1 for your care and concern.


It is likely to hurt both the swan and the humans interacting with the swan. From The role of animals in education:

Animals are increasingly being incorporated into the American school setting to help teach students important behavioral and academic lessons (Chung 1994; Dalton 1999; Mallon 1992; Pavia 1997). In a 1998 study, Beck and Rud surveyed 1,999 elementary school teachers throughout the State of Indiana about the presence of animals in their classrooms. The results indicated that 20 to 25 percent of the teachers surveyed incorporate some type of animal in their classrooms.

Researchers have found that interacting with animals can help people in numerous ways. Levinson (1962) was the first to formally theorize that a dog could serve as a transitional object or "bridge" with which an individual could form a nonthreatening relationship, which could later expand to include other humans. Beck and Katcher (1983) found that interacting with animals almost always has positive influences on children. Mallon (1992) suggested that animals play a role in socializing and humanizing children. Many researchers and writers have noted the value of utilizing animals as mediators to help people who are not being reached by other methods (Corson, Corson, and Gwynne 1975; Johnson 1983; McCullough 1982).

Some reasons that interventions involving animals produce results when other methods fail include issues of trust, nurturance, social perception bias, physiological response, resistance to treatment, nonverbal communication, identity, control, and touch.

Trust. Many researchers, including Levinson (1965) and Ruth (1992), have observed that children who are not comfortable interacting with other humans often do not feel the same inhibition with animals. As Levinson (1969) stated, when interacting with an animal, a child can assume the role of teacher, parent, or anything else without fear of rejection. Gonski (1985) postulated that animals provide a safe means for children to begin to trust nonjudgmental beings, before trusting humans. Whatever the reason, some children find interactions with animals less stressful than those with humans (Brickel 1982: Levinson 1965; Robin et al. 1984; Ruth 1992). Many claim the reason is that animals provide unconditional acceptance and love, without the criticism that so often accompanies human interactions (Beck and Katcher 1983; Levinson 1969; Siegel 1962).

Further reading:

  1. Treating Human Trauma with the Help of Animals: Trauma Informed Intervention for Child Maltreatment and Adult Post-Traumatic Stress
  2. Research in the use of animals as a treatment for humans

There is also the ethical question of betraying an animal that trusts you.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ This answer is about the utility to humans of interacting with animals, which isn't the question being asked. OP is asking about somehow trying to teach the swan to "act wild" again, to not be trusting of humans and keep its distance. $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Nov 24, 2022 at 18:39
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Fascinating, well researched and sadly, not what the question asked. Unless you're suggesting that the local school should be contacted as potential candidates to adopt the bird.... Maybe, but swans are not small nor quiet (and they seldom do their homework). $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2022 at 10:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .