Archive for August, 2010

Trumpeter Swan Update: EPA Denies Petition to Protect Wildlife From Toxic Lead-based Ammunition

August 28, 2010
Yellowstone Trumpeter Swan

Yellowstone Trumpeter Swan by Peg Abbott

TTSS and other conservation groups express strong disappointed in EPA quick rejection of the petiton to ban lead ammunition. Here is a copy of the press release, issued by the American Bird Conservancy and the Center for Biodiverity:

WASHINGTON — Conservation groups expressed dismay today after a decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to deny a petition to ban toxic lead bullets and shot that commonly kill and harm bald eagles, trumpeter swans, endangered California condors and other wildlife. An estimated 10 million to 20 million birds and other animals die each year from lead poisoning in the United States.

    “The EPA had ample evidence that lead bullets and shot have a devastating effect on America’s wildlife, yet has refused to do anything about it. It’s disappointing to see this country’s top environmental agency simply walk away from the preventable poisoning of birds and other wildlife,” said Darin Schroeder, Vice President for Conservation Advocacy at American Bird Conservancy.

       On Aug. 3, American Bird Conservancy, Center for Biological Diversity, Association of Avian Veterinarians, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, and the hunters’ group Project Gutpile petitioned the EPA to ban lead in bullets and shot for hunting, as well as fishing tackle. The petition referenced nearly 500 peer-reviewed scientific papers illustrating the widespread dangers of lead ammunition and fishing tackle. While the EPA is still considering the petition’s request for the regulation of lead fishing tackle, it denied the petition’s request regarding lead ammunition on the grounds that the Toxic Substances Control Act contains a specific exemption for lead ammunition.
      “We strongly believe that the EPA has the clear authority and duty to regulate this very harmful and toxic substance as used in bullets and shot, despite the so-called exemption for lead ammunition that is written into TSCA. We had hoped they would take that responsibility seriously but we remain committed to making sure toxic lead is removed from the environment and we’ll redouble our efforts to see that through,” said Adam Keats, senior counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity.
      Lead is an extremely toxic substance that is dangerous to people and wildlife even at low levels. Exposure can cause a range of health effects, from acute poisoning and death to long-term problems such as reduced reproduction, inhibition of growth and damage to neurological development.
      Animals are poisoned when they scavenge on carcasses shot and contaminated with lead bullet fragments, or pick up and eat spent lead-shot pellets or lost fishing weights, mistaking them for food or grit. Some animals die a painful death from lead poisoning while others suffer for years from its debilitating effects.

The denial was a one page document, citing lack of authority of the EPA to do so.  TTSS Executive Director, John Cornely, notes that one aspect positive for Trumpeter Swans is still pending.  The EPA has agreed to consider the part of the petition calling for a ban on lead fishing tackle because they do have authority to do that.

The Trumpeter Swan Society Supports Legal Petition to Ban Lead

August 13, 2010
Downy Trumpeter Swan Cygnet by Arnold Frederickson

A Brighter Future?? Downy Trumpeter Swan Cygnet by Arnold Frederickson

The mission of The Trumpeter Swan Society (TTSS) is to “Assure the Vitality and Welfare of Wild Trumpeter Swans.”   On August 7th, Executive Director John Cornely stated on behalf of the Society, “The Trumpeter Swan Society (TTSS) joins a coalition of conservation organizations, hunting and veterinary groups in support of a formal petition filed August 3rd with the Environmental Protection Agency requesting a ban on the use of toxic lead in hunting ammunition and fishing tackle.”  The legal petition supported by TTSS, submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency, is 100 pages in length and 37 of the pages present an impressive list of scientific documentation on lead and its hazards to wildlife and risk to human health. Against this body of scientific knowledge, a spokesperson for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry, says, “There is no scientific evidence that the use of traditional ammunition is having an adverse impact on wildlife populations that would require restricting or banning the use of ammunition containing lead beyond current limitations.”   Apparently, profits are more important to the National Shooting Sports Foundation than the health of people and wildlife.

Swans are among several key species used as evidence in the petition, along with Bald and Golden Eagles, California Condors, other raptors, waterfowl, cranes and rails, corvids, doves and other songbirds.  More than 130 species of wildlife are included as having been affected by lead. Foes state that populations are increasing in several of these key species.  This does not negate, that, as stated it the petition’s summary comments, in some species thousands, or tens of thousands, die each year in North America.  Swan mortality from lead ingestion has been noted as early as 1925.  Extensive die-offs of swans in Washington and British Columbia are detailed in the petition and studies that show lead mortality is a problem in efforts to restore Wisconsin Trumpeters are cited as well.

On 20 April, 2008, during the TTSS 21st Conference, the TTSS Board unanimously passed the following Motion: 

 “TTSS recognizes that lead is a potent toxic substance and hazardous to wildlife and human health when scattered into our environment.  Trumpeter Swans are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning. In Washington State alone, over 2,500 trumpeters have needlessly suffered and died in recent years after swallowing lead as they fed in fields and wetlands. 

TTSS urges the rapid end to the use of this toxic substance in all hunting, other shooting activities, and fishing and conversion to the use of alternative non-toxic substances.

We urge all who value wildlife to unite in this effort to end this needless poisoning.”

TTSS is a 501(c)(3) conservation organization founded in 1968 and dedicated to the conservation of wild Trumpeter Swans. We have members throughout the U.S. and Canada and our Board and membership include most of the swan experts in North America. Our Board and membership is diverse, including hunters and non-hunters alike.

The Trumpeter Swan Society Photo-of-the-Month, August, 2010

August 9, 2010
Trumpeter Swan on the Wing by Matthew Fells

Trumpeter Swan on the Wing, by Matthew Fells

Professional Photographer and TTSS Photo-of-the-Month host Greg Smith says:

Matthew’s photograph of this Trumpeter Swan shows excellent depth of field as depicted by the face being in crisp focus as well as the band on the bird’s right leg. The pose of extended wings positions the bird to show its entire underside . The sky, with its diffuse gray clouds, takes the edge off of the contrast there by allowing for a well exposed subject, without any heavy shadows. And if you read Matthew’s comments on the shot, you will note that he captured the photograph without the benefit of autofocus. Nice shot.

There is one more aspect that stands out in the photograph – the patagial wing tags. Matthew’s excellent photograph will allow researchers to document the specific bird coupled with the location and date of the photograph. Researchers utilize specific alpha-numeric codes and colors to identify individuals. So, given the following information, where was this bird banded? You’ll find the reference to various codes for tags and bands on another Blog posting – stored in our management section, or the January 2010 archives. Here you will find that yellow tags with black code ### (3 numbers) or a letter followed by two numbers = Ontario. Likely this bird was banded by volunteer Beverly Kingdon and helpers at LaSalle Park – read more about these efforts in the Blog posting stored in our management section (or the February 2010 archives).

Featured Photographer for August, 2010 – Matthew Fells, Barrie, Ontario:

I am originally from Nova Scotia, and am currently working at the Simcoe County Archives in Ontario. I consider myself a hobbyist /enthusiast photographer.

I was able to get this photograph after spending several hours at the Tiny Marsh Provincial Wildlife Area, a Canadian Important Bird Area in Simcoe County, Ontario. Tiny Marsh was Ontario’s first owned and managed wetlands and is place I enjoy photographing ducks, geese, and Red-winged Blackbirds. On this day, I’d seen a pair of swans in the distance, but they were content to stay well out of range. I’d recently read that geese like to take off into the wind and often displace in the evening before sunset, so I moved to a downwind position on the causeway and waited.

And waited. And waited. After an hour or two, I got a bit bored and started taking pictures of closer species, among them the two Trumpeter Swans. I glanced back and saw that they were heading right for me, so I swung around and fired off a few bursts as they flew toward, and then over me. I was using an old Nikon Series E 70-210mm lens, so I didn’t have auto-focus or metering on my D90. Quite a few of the shots I got were out of focus, but a couple of the shots were keepers.

We are pleased that Matthew was willing to share this “keeper” shot in support of Trumpeter Swans and The Trumpeter Swan Society. Find more his images on his Flickr site,