Washington Swan Stewards Swan Rescue Response Team, An Update from the Field

Washington Swan Stewards Response Team Captures M35

Spring has arrived in the Pacific Northwest.  The swans were about a week late in leaving this year and as of early April; a few were still hanging around.

In early April, Martha Jordan, former TTSS Board of Directors and current Chair, Washington Swan Stewards, noticed a pair of swans hanging around a chain of ponds at a well-known dog retriever training area east of Redmond, WA.  Two weeks later there was only one swan in the back pond of the property, a clear sign something was wrong. A quick view with her scope revealed this swan had a damaged wing and could not fly.  Martha and her colleagues mounted a rescue effort the following day.

It proved to be a major operation. Due to the topography of the area and the determination of this swan to remain free, it took seven people and two boats to capture the swan.  Martha tells us, “Mostly we stood on shore to keep the bird in the water, and then the people in the power boat were able to net the swan.  The swan is currently at a rehabilitation facility being evaluated and treated.  If all goes well, the bird will have surgery that will allow the swan to live a quality life in captivity.”

TTSS thanks Puget Sound Energy’s Mel Walters and two staff members, and volunteers from the local retriever hunting community who assisted us in making the capture go smoothly and quickly.

To make these captures possible it takes people and equipment. Although they have a portable Zodiac inflatable, this response team still needs other equipment including additional capture nets, another swan hook, and a car top boat such as an Aqua pod.  You can help support the Washington Swan Steward’s swan rescue response efforts with a donation to TTSS for the Washington Swan Steward’s Swan Rescue Fund.  Donations can be mailed to our main office in Minnesota (12615 County Road 9, Plymouth, MN 55441) or made online at www.trumpeterswansociety.org.

A mid-April Addendum from Martha Jordan

In May, 2011, TTSS and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife released two captive reared Trumpeter Swan yearlings, M35 and M36 into the wild.  It was an experiment to see if Trumpeter Swans could live in an urban setting with lots of lakes and homes. Problems occurred when one of the swans began regularly showing aggression to humans, so ahead of the breeding season almost a year later, WDFW and TTSS decided that the two swans must be caught and returned to captivity both for human safety as well as their own. 

 Thus began the Washington Swan Stewards attempts to catch these free spirited, free flying youngsters.  The person who had been watching over them and feeding them all year was very helpful since M36 came up to him on a regular basis.  Martha says, “We lured the swan up onto the lawn using decoys. While M36 was busy posturing in a turf battle with the decoys I netted him. M35 proved to be more elusive since he did not keep a regular schedule and was now hanging out on Long Lake, about 1 mile away.  I recruited some great volunteers from the local area who had helped last year with the release and who had experience with Mute Swan captures.  Russ McMillan and Chris Maynard took their small boat over to Long Lake to look for the swan.  Just after I left them at the boat launch they called to tell me that M35 was standing on the launch area about 5 feet from them.  I suggested that if they could get the swan within a foot of them they could likely attempt a hand capture.  What happened next was creative thinking at its best.  When I arrived back at the boat launch I found Chris lying on the ground holding the swan with a white blanket covering its head.  The photo says it all for how this went down: Russ under blanket, Chris behind.  They lured the swan about 10 more feet up the boat launch where Chris lay on the ground. Russ wiggling under the blanket got M35 to come up to him out of curiosity.  Chris rolled up and put his arms around the swan. Capture accomplished.”

Both swans are now safely in captivity. They will be placed in captive breeding programs where their new mates await them.  The Washington Swan Stewards thank WDFW District Wildlife Biologist Michelle Tihri for all her time and assistance, and all those that volunteered, Russ McMillan, Chris Maynard, Paul Fischbach and avian veterinarian Scott Ford.  A special thank you to Larry James for the year he spent making sure the boys were looked after during their wild year.




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2 Responses to “Washington Swan Stewards Swan Rescue Response Team, An Update from the Field”

  1. Chris Maynard Says:

    Nice writeup and thank you for the opportunity to be involved.

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