-- Time flies and so do trumpeter swans. However, trumpeter swans,
once a common resident of the area, haven't flown regularly over
Flathead Indian Reservation for quite some time. And the monogamous
birds haven't set up family nesting areas for more than a century.
But that may change, thanks to a cooperative effort between the
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Tribes' Wildlife Management Program has been at the forefront of
the trumpeter swan reintroduction effort on the reservation since
1996. However, the success has been fleeting as the flighty big
birds have stayed awhile then ventured on. Hopefully, that is about
trumpeter swans have been spotted regularly at a pond just west
of U.S. 93 in the Duck Haven Waterfowl Production Area. The 30-square-mile
refuge is located three miles south of Ronan and is comprised of
private, state, federal and tribally owned parcels of prime wetlands,
according to Bill West, USFWS deputy project leader.
waterfowl production areas are open to the public and in-season
hunting is permitted. No motorized vehicles are allowed on land
or water inside the boundaries.
week the Tribes and the USFWS laid out the welcome mat, literally,
when they set a four foot by eight-foot floating deck in the pond
across from the scenic turnout. The floating nesting deck was covered
with willow branches and reeds for a nesting base and a "welcome"
mat. The mat is meant to provide sure footing for the couple and,
it's hoped, for any offspring they may have. The floating deck was
anchored far enough off shore to protect the trumpeter swans from
wildlife management crew hopes the floating deck will turn into
a love boat for the two swans from which they will do the "birds
and bees" thing and raise a family. It would be a historic
step in the reintroduction effort.
year we may have breeding on the ground for the first time in more
than 100 years," said Dale Becker. The pair of trumpeter swans
were released two years ago have been hanging around the area, much
to the delight of Becker and crew and West. Swans mate for life
and do not need to migrate. Once they find a habitat to their liking
they tend to stay and raise numerous generations of offspring or
trumpeter swan was plentiful in the area in the 1800s. But since
the late-1800s the population has steadily declined for a myriad
of reasons, mostly human-related. They were a good source of food
for subsistence hunters; the Hudson Bay Company killed more than
100,000 of them over a 30-year period when the feathers were in
demand for the clothing fashion industry; conversion of land from
its natural state to agricultural uses eliminated much of the birds'
habitat; and consumption of lead-shot killed many. Recently 15 have
been killed as a result of collisions with power lines.
Tribes' Wildlife Management Program (WMP) first reintroduced the
trumpeter swan to the Flathead Indian Reservation in 1996. Nineteen
trumpeter swans that were captured in northeast Idaho were released
at the Pablo Wildlife Refuge that spring. They stayed around until
the fall, then migrated and never returned to the area.
a one-year hiatus, WMP released 10 young swans at the Pablo Refuge
in the spring of 1998. Those birds left in the fall, as well, and
were spotted in the Bitterroot Valley area. The following spring
only one of the 10 returned to the area.
said the supply of captured trumpeter swans was an unstable source
to rely on. Consequently the program looked to captive breeding
as a source of supply. Through the more predictable and reliable
captive breeding process they were able to have the stable supply
source they needed.
breeding can double the productivity of the swans," Becker
said. Breeders remove a set of eggs from the female and put them
in incubators and the swans soon produce another batch of eggs.
2000 WMP released 24 swans in the area; in 2001; 15, in 2002, 34;
and in 2003, they released 34.
Tribes provide approximately $20,000 annually for the reintroduction
program. Federal, state, Lake County and various non-profit entities
also contribute funds and expertise.
buccinator, or the trumpeter swan, is the largest waterfowl in North
America and the largest swan in the world. It can weigh up to 30
pounds and has snowy white feathers; black bill, feet and legs;
and an eight-foot wingspan. They have a thin orange-red line on
the lower part of their bill and they can live for up to 30 years.
trumpeter swan's historic breeding range extended from the Bering
Sea east through all most all of Canada and south to Missouri, Illinois
and Indiana. By 1932, fewer than 70 trumpeter swans were known to
exist worldwide, at a location near Yellowstone National Park. The
park's system of hot springs provided year-round open waters where
they could find food and cover even during the coldest weather.
That group of swans provided an important source of breeding birds
for reintroductions efforts that began in the mid-1930s.
there are more than 16,000 trumpeter swans that can be seen from
southeastern Alaska along coastal British Columbia south to the
mouth of the Columbia River on the southern border of Washington.
They are also found in Alberta, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming,
South Dakota and Minnesota.
Tribes and Becker would like area bird watchers and others to report
sightings of the trumpeter swans to the Wildlife Management Program.
The birds have red neck collars and leg bands with identification
numbers on them.
report any sightings call the Wildlife Management Program in Polson
at 406/883-2888, ext. 7291, or the Pablo Tribal Complex at 406/675-2700,