Archive for the ‘Recent News’ Category

Trumpeter Watch, a Citizen Science Project of The Trumpeter Swan Society kicks off Third Winter Season

November 2, 2011

See Our Preliminary Results Online Photo: Peg Abbott

Trumpeter Watch, a Citizen Science program of The Trumpeter Swan Society, encourages observers to help the Society document the changing distribution of wintering Trumpeter Swans in states south of the 40th parallel.

In recent decades wild nesting populations of Trumpeter Swans have been successfully restored across the Interior northern states and Ontario. As populations grow, we see evidence that more and more swans are pioneering southward to areas where they may establish more southerly wintering sites.  Little is known about these southward moving swans; the duration that they use various sites, the location and characteristic of prime feeding and resting areas, or what problems they may be encountering.  Observers are needed primarily in states south of the 40th parallel, during the winter season, to help chart trends in this new winter distribution.  You can help!

The largest wintering concentrations south of the 40th parallel to date occur in and around Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary in the state of Missouri (along with adjacent southern Illinois) close to the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.  At the peak of winter, over 500 Trumpeters may be present.  Of note is that marked and collared Trumpeters from all the northern states have been sighted here, indicating a certain, but unknown degree of mixing.  

Observers have tallied Trumpeters in 41 of 114 counties in Missouri, two of which have recorded winter counts of swans over 100 in number.  A dozen additional sites note groups of 10 or more.  The Heber Springs area of Arkansas is an important wintering site, and observers throughout the southern states are asked to be especially vigilant looking for collared birds marked during an experimental winter release program conducted in cooperation between the Arkansas Game and Fish Department and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.  Kansas birders have recorded Trumpeters in 57 of 105 counties, and Oklahoma observers note them in 17 of 77 counties. We expect the lists to grow.  Be the first to add your county!

We are compiling records throughout the southern states, and with increased participation, we are starting to look at winter distribution in the western states as well. You’ll find preliminary results of Trumpeter Watch, learn about tools of the trade, and find a chart you can download to help you find the origins of marked, collared, wing-tagged and banded Trumpeter Swans on our website. This is an exciting program that needs YOUR support!  We ask that you get involved with sightings, and that you make a donation – however large or small – to support our efforts, through membership or a direct project donation. All of our work is aimed at fulfilling our mission, to assure the security and vitality of wild Trumpeter Swans.


Trumpeter Swan Nest Survey Counts Reach Record High in 2011

September 28, 2011

Nesting Trumpeter Swan photo by Alan Sachanowski

A Recent Note from biologist and TTSS Board Member Sumner Matteson in Madison, Wisconsin:

In case folks inquire, we had a new record Wisconsin high of 192 nesting pairs of Trumpeter Swans in 23 counties.  Approximately 45 percent of nesting pairs occurred in two counties:  Polk and Burnett in northwestern Wisconsin.  In 2010, there were 176 nesting pairs in 24 counties, and in 2009, the former nesting peak was reached at 183 in 23 counties.  So, we continue our upward trend, but who’s counting?  This was our 25th year of the Trumpeter Swan Recovery Program, which has come a long way since our returning Board member, Becky Abel, helped with cross-fostering back in 1988 and then started her Master’s work on decoy-rearing in 1989. 

We fly the next few weeks to get a good handle on cygnet survival to fledging.  This summer, we again marked 100 cygnets during our roundups, thanks to the support of scores of volunteers, including about 20 interns from the International Crane Foundation in central Wisconsin.  Pat Manthey continues to coordinate field activities in northern Wisconsin, while I handle duties in central Wisconsin.  I concluded my fund-raising activities for the swan program, and we have sufficient funds for one more season of field work.  This will complete my post-delisting obligation to the state’s Natural Resources Board for annual monitoring of nesting swans.  Pat and I will have a 2-day retreat later this fall to chart a new course for the Department of Natural Resources for future swan monitoring, and I suspect that after next year, coordinated, statewide surveys of Trumpeters will likely occur once every 10 years.  

From Peg Abbott, Outreach Coordinator of TTSS:  Fascinating footage of recent capture and banding efforts can been seen on two YouTube videos, one from the perspective of a kayak paddler and another from land. I can tell you the kayak paddlers got a workout! 

Video one is from a kayak during the chase:

Video two is from the shore overlooking the efforts of the capture:


July 15, 2011

TTSS Helps Washington Swans!


Since 2005, when we first began the Adopt A Swan program, donors have contributed $10,324 to benefit Trumpeter Swans in Washington State, where lead poisoning has sickened and killed over 2,500 swans.  A list of these generous people, including a several wonderful grade school classes, can be found on our website.

Every dollar raised through this program goes to benefit the swans through our Lead Poisoning Crisis Response Program.  Since 2005, $8,562 of the donations have been used for: hazing swans away from areas where there is high danger of lead poisoning ($3,000); supplies and mileage expenses for monitoring of swans and pick up of injured and dead swans ($2,943); trailer rental for hazing and monitoring crew ($1,004); satellite transmitter data from radio marked swans ($1,000); and swan rehabilitation and necropsies ($615).  We currently have $1,762 carry over in the fund to help us fund next winter’s work.  Lead poisoning has a terrible impact on many wildlife species —Trumpeter Swans are particularly vulnerable.  We thank all those who have supported this program.  By becoming a supporter and help us reduce these needless deaths and suffering.

If you live in one of twenty states you could be FIRST in your state to Adopt a Swan!  This exciting program, inspired by former Board of Director Martha Jordan, funds TTSS’s fight against LEAD. Right now the program is focused in well-organized efforts in Washington State, but with your help we may be able to expand our efforts. The list of donors on our site, from 32 states and 1 province, is impressive.  You can be on that list.  If you live in AZ, AR, DE, HI, ID, IN, KY, LA, ME, NE, NV, NM, ND, OH, OK, SC, SD, UT, VT, or WY – why not add YOUR name as well as YOUR STATE!  There are donation levels for every budget.  Please see our website, or email  for details. 

Saving Yellowstone’s Swans – A New Chapter Begins

May 26, 2011
Yellowstone Trumpeter Pair by Jess Lee

A Report from the Field, from Ruth Shea

Yellowstone National Parkplayed a crucial role in the 1930s in preventing the extinction of Trumpeter Swans in the lower 48 states.  At their peak in the 1970s, over 50 Trumpeters summered in the Park and there were about 20 nesting territories.  Now, after a decline spanning over 30 years, only a handful of swans still summer in the Park and only one nesting pair remains.  In an effort to examine all possible options for saving Yellowstone’s swans, the National Park Service (NPS) convened about 30 swan, waterfowl, and wetland experts for a 2-day workshop, April 26-27, 2011 in Bozeman, Montana.

Having studied Yellowstone’s swans for my Master’s thesis in the 1970s, and now coordinating TTSS’s Greater Yellowstone Initiative, this issue has great personal interest to me. I attended the workshop on behalf of TTSS and made the opening presentation summarizing the history of the Park’s swans.  The reasons for the decline are complex and it was wonderful that the NPS brought so many scientists to contemplate the problems and possible solutions.

While there may be other unknown factors involved in the decline, my research indicates that human disturbance, dating back to the 1930s, has played a major role in damaging nesting success and eliminating nesting swans from preferred habitats in the park.  Coupled with the disruption of the swan families’ traditional patterns of habitat use and possible genetic problems, maintaining nesting Trumpeters inYellowstoneis a very difficult challenge.

 TTSS commends the NPS for its efforts to improve this very difficult situation and we look forward to providing all possible assistance to the NPS.  Please see our next issue of Trumpetings, the Society’s publication for members, for further detail.

Announcing: The 22nd Trumpeter Swan Society Conference, Call for Papers

January 22, 2011

Dale Becker, Tribal Wildlife Program Manager, and Janene Lichtenberg, Tribal Wildlife Biologist, release Trumpeters as part of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes' restoration program

The 22nd Trumpeter Swan Society Conference (TTSS) will be held at the Polson, Montana, United States, on October 11-13, 2011. The biennial conferences of TTSS provide the only public forum in North America that brings together private citizens and conservation groups, policy makers, swan managers, and researchers to examine the status and needs of Trumpeter Swans in the U.S. and Canada and to work together to make all populations secure.

The 22nd Conference will focus on both the successes and challenges involved with long-term management of trumpeter swans.  Special attention will also be given to be the status, management, and conservation of Trumpeter Swans in the Pacific Flyway.  Presentations will examine the restoration accomplishments and lessons learned and discuss the future challenges to Trumpeter Swan conservation.  In addition, the Conference will include sessions on the biology, habitat concerns, and management of Trumpeter Swan populations throughout North America. Papers and posters on the biology and management of Tundra Swans and Mute Swans or their interactions with Trumpeter Swans are also invited.

We strongly encourage private partners, agency managers, and biologists involved in Trumpeter Swan restoration, management, and research to participate.  If you are interested in making a presentation at the 21st Conference, please contact John Cornely at (303-933-9861), Dale Becker (, or Ruth Shea ( for additional information, including presentation guidelines and submission dates.

Agency Decision Threatens Trumpeter Swans in Idaho

November 23, 2010
Snow Geese by Greg Smith

Snow Geese Landing photo: Greg Smith

A recent decision by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) to expand a late winter Snow Goose hunt in southeast Idaho would jeopardize Trumpeter Swan use of important prebreeding habitat near Fort Hall at the north end of American Falls Reservoir. TTSS is asking IDFG and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to reverse this decision and protect Trumpeter Swans in this area. 

TTSS is not “antihunting.”  Several TTSS staff and Board members have been long-term managers of waterfowl hunts during their careers and TTSS is not opposed to well-managed waterfowl hunting. However, the design of this hunt is flawed. It would jeopardize important Trumpeter Swan habitat-use patterns that took many years, great effort, and great expense to create.

Beginning in 1988, the USFWS, the Pacific Flyway Council, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, Idaho, several other western states, and TTSS undertook a massive effort to disperse wintering Trumpeter Swans from high elevation areas of Harriman State Park, Idaho, and Red Rock Lakes NWR (RRLNWR), Montana.  The goal was to encourage migrations southward to milder wintering sites where swans would gain access to winter and early spring food sources. 

Agencies spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to build the new migration to Fort Hall to help increase population security.  Winter translocations involved nighttime capture on icy waters, often at near-zero temperatures, with great risk to those who braved those dangerous conditions.

The American Falls/Fort Hall wintering area is the biggest success of the range expansion effort, with over 500 Trumpeters present in recent winters.  Swans have gradually learned to field feed in areas north and west of the reservoir in late winter.  Late-winter nutrition is key to nesting success and managers are struggling to protect and enhance these crucial prebreeding habitats. The proposed hunt expansion would open the most important swan prebreeding habitats to Snow Goose hunting from February 19 to March 10, when these areas normally receive heavy swan use.

TTSS will ask IDFG to reverse the hunt expansion and maintain at least the same secure areas provided by the 2010 hunt boundary.  We also ask that IDFG closely monitor the distribution of swans and geese in the American Falls area during the hunt and take immediate measures to prevent hunter activity from displacing swans from their normal feeding areas if problems arise.

 We’ll keep you posted on this important issue on our website

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.

Trumpeter Swans and Climate Change

May 25, 2010

Trumpeter Swans and Climate Change

Trumpeter Swan by John Van Orman

The effects of climate change on Trumpeter Swan populations will likely be complex and will differ across their extensive range, which spans much of North America. Scientists have documented a shift in range for various species due to warming temperatures. As is the case with Trumpeters, as ranges shift northward, there can be different problems to the south.

If one looks only at Alaska, there could be a positive aspect of warming temperatures for Trumpeters. Earlier, we pointed you to Dr. Joshua Schmidt’s 2009 Journal of Wildlife Management article in which he summarized the 5-year survey data showing Trumpeter Swans successfully breeding farther north in Alaska. He notes the possibility that northward range expansion in recent years may be due in part to climate change, citing a nearly 12-day increase in the number of ice-free days per year occurring over the last 100 years in Alaska. He suggests that it “is feasible that this increase in the number of ice-free days is enough to allow swans to breed in areas that were previously unavailable due to ice cover.”

A recent Blog, entitled World Climate Report  gleefully highlights this idea in their May 20th essay, and erroneously implies that the entire growth of the Alaskan Trumpeter population since 1968 is due to climate change. The Blog presents an idyllic photo of a Trumpeter with two cygnets, underscored with the caption “Trumpeter Swans Thriving in a World of Enriched CO2.” The authors appear to be unaware of the primary factors that fueled the increase of Alaskan Trumpeters, such as the cessation of the historic overharvest and the massive increase of agricultural food availability in their southerly wintering areas. It appears that the Blog is more focused on attempting to dismiss the serious problems caused by climate change than in increasing anyone’s understanding of the forces impacting Trumpeter Swan populations.

Authors of this Blog quote extensively from The Trumpeter Swan Society website  and chide TTSS for listing climate change as one of the problems facing Trumpeters. Unfortunately the World Climate Report made no effort to contact TTSS to understand why we include climate change as a problem facing Trumpeters.

Ruth Shea, TTSS Board Member and long-term advocate and biologist for the vulnerable Greater Yellowstone Trumpeter Swan population cautions us keep a 360° view. Commenting on the Blog, she replies:

“Since I wrote the information they quoted from our website- I thought I’d make a few comments. Basically, it is possible that Trumpeters in some areas may benefit from a warmer climate, since breeding range is often limited by the ice-free period and winter severity limits use of some potential wintering sites. However, in locations where the shallow wetlands essential for Trumpeter Swan nesting are drying up at an increasing rate, problems are developing. Here in the Intermountain West, warming climate is impacting the nesting habitat of an already fragile population and could prevent its recovery if this trend continues. We are seeing declining water levels in many historic nesting sites, and are losing crucial water supplies even on some key National Wildlife Refuges. Some important territories in Yellowstone National Park are now completely unusable due to declines in the water table. One of our greatest challenges will be to figure out how to maintain adequate breeding habitat for this population if this trend continues. If we fail, the future of this nesting population will be in jeopardy.”

If the hosts of the World Climate Report had come to us to inquire why we list climate change as one of the problems facing Trumpeter Swans, we would have explained our concerns. As we have for over 40 years, we’ll celebrate success in one area, while keeping a watch on all sides of the issue and presenting the most accurate information available. If the World Climate Report had not closed their comment period so quickly after posting their essay, we would have submitted our comments to them. As always, we welcome your comments here.

Find more John VanOrman photos at


November 11, 2009
Three Trumpeter Swan Cygnets by David. K. Weaver

Photo: Three Trumpeter Swan Cygnets by David K. Weaver

On the road some 300 days a year lecturing as an advocate for wildlife, Dr. Jane Goodall discovers many fascinating stories of endangered species and the people who have labored to save them.  In her latest book, Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink, Dr. Goodall chronicles many of these inspiring efforts.

With co-authors Thayne Maynard and Gail Hudson,  she has collected the stories into a 392 page volume that focuses on the very most endangered species in the world.  On her associated website, Hope for Animals and Their World, she highlights additional species, including the Trumpeter Swan.  You’ll find rich descriptions of her personal experiences with Trumpeters portrayed in prose. She describes standing close to them, the sounds they make, the size of their feet.

Jane Goodall chronicles the decline of Trumpeters and the establishment of The Trumpeter Swan Society, which began with a small group of dedicated individuals committed to the swan’s secure restoration.  She writes about a mid-1970’s TTSS conference near Yellowstone where managers weighed the merits of restrained populations held by the tether of winter feed. In attendance was Ruth Shea, currently a TTSS Director. Listening to those how envisioned had a larger vision, one that has fueled a life passion and years of professional work with swans. Ruth’s vision and life story resonates with Dr. Goodall’s. Both have experienced intense field research time that inspired them to become advocates for their species.

Dr. Goodall continues with the 1960 launch of Trumpeter restoration at LaCreek National Wildlife Refuge, located in South Dakota on the border of Nebraska. She describes a personal visit to the area, guided by biologists Tom Koerner and Shilo Comeau on a bitter cold day. She shares rich memories of seeing two swans in flight.

 She goes on to describe restoration in western Montana, and gives a great description of swan biologist Greg Neudecker, a former University of Minnesota football player.  Greg is quite at home handling tenacious swans, working with conservation-minded landowners, and inspiring public participation in restoration efforts. Applauding that Trumpeter restoration success is possible in a region where high quality wetlands are held by private ranchlands, author and activist Jane Goodall says that nowhere on Earth is there a better model for conservation than the Blackfoot program.

Her closing section holds a sweeping quote from TTSS’ Ruth Shea who concludes that the Trumpeter Swan “was nearly destroyed by the unthinking actions of many people across North America. But it also was restored by the thoughtful and dedicated actions of many people, who shared a common vision and worked together.

If you share this vision, please take action! Join TTSS and help us be more effective today!