Jenny Crates, Freshwater:

There have always been rats at the Causeway, Freshwater.  It's a good natural environment for them, away from built-up areas, somewhere with water and food, and no problem to anyone.

But local rumour now has it that someone has been putting down rat poison along the Causeway verges. 

If this is so, it is incredibly irresponsible and cruel, posing a real risk to the many dogs who are walked there, and to the water birds and to the much-loved swan colony who are gradually returning to the Causeway after the awful dog attack at Easter in which two swans died. It would also be a dangerous problem to children.

Local police have been informed, and we would ask people to be vigilant in noticing any unusual behaviour from anyone at the Causeway.

There is also an ongoing problem from just a few people who hate seeing any increase in the swan population. 

They say it alters the eco system of the river, which is not the case. The river is thriving and so are the swans. 

During the avian flu epidemic we were able to keep our swans well and safe away from the south coast areas on the mainland where there was a huge problem, and when there was a poorly cormorant we were able to move him quickly. 

There is also a school of thought that says any support to wild creatures is interfering with the natural order. But again, our swans are healthy and well-fed and happy, and they are still wild creatures enjoying their natural habitat. 

During the heatwave some years ago, the natural foods in the river died off, and the Thames swans were dying from malnutrition. Thankfully, the Causeway swans were able to live, sustained by the feeding.

When we first became involved with the swans, there were just the resident pair, with their youngsters each year. It was a lovely time. But then Dad swan got attacked by a dog, and was quite poorly. We had to move them to the other side of the Island to aid his recovery. But he had been weakened by the attack, and once they were back at the Causeway, other males began to move in, which was when the swan population began to increase. 

The people who object to the feeding of the swans probably blame the rats on the feeding, but it has taken place for years.

Children come to the river with their parents to enjoy meeting and feeding the swans, and it is lovely to see them developing a real interest in wildlife. 

Most local people, and many visitors, really love the swans and say it's the Island's answer to Abbotsbury, the sanctuary in Dorset.