Court hears how local man threatened to snap swan’s neck in Stenhousemuir park

Gary McDonald. Picture: TIM BUGLER
Gary McDonald. Picture: TIM BUGLER

A man grabbed a nesting swan by its neck in a public park and boasted he was going to “snap” it, a court has heard.

Gary McDonald brushed aside a horrified onlooker’s pleas and clambered down to the swan’s waterside nest.

McDonald, 29, had earlier swaggered into Crownest Park, in Stenhousemuir, Stirlingshire.

Prosecutor Susan Campbell said: “A group of teenagers who saw him entering the park believed him to be drunk.”

McDonald approached the group and boasted: “Watch this, I’m going to snap this swan’s neck.”

He asked them to film him.

Miss Campbell said: “There was a swan nesting at the park at the time, and believed to be sitting on six or seven eggs.

“The accused began to approach the side of the nest.

“A concerned passer-by shouted out at him to leave the swan alone, but he climbed down a verge and sat very close to the nest.

“The swan became alarmed and stood up from the nest, stretching its wings to warn him off.

“He continued to harass the swan. The passer-by shouted again at him to leave the swan alone, but he replied ‘f*** off you, the swan just wants a cuddle’.

“He then grabbed the swan by the neck and held it for several seconds.”

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The swan escaped into the park’s small lake, known locally as The Lido, to get away from McDonald.

Miss Campbell said the passer-by thought McDonald had knocked one of the swan’s eggs out of the nest at that point, but she cautioned: “We can’t be totally sure about that.”

She said the witness, who filmed the incident then uploaded the video to social media, posted a request for people to “name and shame” McDonald.

Police became involved, and he was traced about two weeks later.

Miss Campbell said: “He was cautioned and charged and elected to make no reply.”

McDonald, of Bainsford, Falkirk, pleaded guilty at Falkirk Sheriff Court today to interfering with a wild bird’s nest, contrary to the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act. The incident occurred about 9.00 pm on May 6th (2018).

Defence solicitor Murray Aitken said McDonald had “a psychiatric background”.

He said: “This was drunken bravado before teenagers. I’m not seeking to minimise this for him, but he does have certain difficulties.”

Sheriff Derek Livingston deferred sentence until December 20 for pre-sentence reports.

He said: “It’s fortunate for the accused that the swan didn’t make use of it’s wings.”

McDonald left court without commenting but flicked a v-sign at a photographer outside.

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