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At one time a swan sighting in the area was a rare occurrence but the Minnesota swan population, which includes this pair which spent the summer in Eckles Township, continues to expand at an estimated rate of 20 percent each year. File Photo

Survey shows Minnesota's trumpeter swan population is expanding

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A statewide aerial survey conducted in early January revealed that the population of trumpeter swans in Minnesota has more than doubled in the last five years, according to Larry Gillette, wildlife manager for Three Rivers Park District, which organized the survey.

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The final count in Minnesota was 5,362 trumpeter swans found at 20 locations in 14 counties. In addition, some trumpeters that nest in Minnesota migrate out of state for the winter. The numbers indicate that Minnesota's trumpeter swan population is expanding about 20 percent per year.

"There were more trumpeter swans than we thought there would be," said DNR Nongame specialist Katie Haws who is based in Bemidji.

The survey was coordinated by Three Rivers Park District in conjunction with Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Nongame Wildlife Program and The Trumpeter Swan Society. It is conducted every five years as part of a U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service effort to determine the number of trumpeter swans in North America.

The deep snow and cold weather created perfect surveying conditions as the swans were concentrated in areas of open water as opposed to being dispersed among the fields and waterways.

Trumpeter swans are the largest North American waterfowl. They once nested across Minnesota but were hunted to extinction in Minnesota for their meat and feathers by the 1880s. In 1979, Three Rivers Park District (then Hennepin County Park Reserve District) began releasing trumpeter swans in park reserves just west of Minneapolis in the first effort to restore this species to Minnesota.

The DNR Nongame Wildlife Program joined the restoration effort in the mid-1980s. DNR biologists collected eggs in Alaska, raised the chicks in captivity and released the swans at two years of age in western Minnesota. Trumpeter swans now nest across almost all of Minnesota and have expanded their range northward into western Ontario.

"All of the swans in the state are the progeny of the birds introduced at the Tamarac Refuge in Becker County, a few of those released at Itasca State Park and the birds from Hennepin County," Haws said. "We estimate that there are several hundred pairs of trumpeter swans in Beltrami County and they prefer smaller lake basins. They also need something to nest on like a muskrat hut."

When the swans were originally released at Tamarac Refuge the thought was that the birds would head west and make their home on the prairie potholes. But that isn't what happened.

"The swans are free to set up shop anywhere they want but seem to really prefer the forest wetlands over the prairie wetlands," Haws said. "And that came as a surprise."

Y pmiller@bemidjipioneer.com

A statewide aerial survey conducted in early January revealed that the population of trumpeter swans in Minnesota has more than doubled in the last five years, according to Larry Gillette, wildlife manager for Three Rivers Park District, which organized the survey.

The final count in Minnesota was 5,362 trumpeter swans found at 20 locations in 14 counties. In addition, some trumpeters that nest in Minnesota migrate out of state for the winter. The numbers indicate that Minnesota's trumpeter swan population is expanding about 20 percent per year.

"There were more trumpeter swans than we thought there would be," said DNR Nongame specialist Katie Haws who is based in Bemidji.

The survey was coordinated by Three Rivers Park District in conjunction with Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Nongame Wildlife Program and The Trumpeter Swan Society. It is conducted every five years as part of a U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service effort to determine the number of trumpeter swans in North America.

The deep snow and cold weather created perfect surveying conditions as the swans were concentrated in areas of open water as opposed to being dispersed among the fields and waterways.

Trumpeter swans are the largest North American waterfowl. They once nested across Minnesota but were hunted to extinction in Minnesota for their meat and feathers by the 1880s. In 1979, Three Rivers Park District (then Hennepin County Park Reserve District) began releasing trumpeter swans in park reserves just west of Minneapolis in the first effort to restore this species to Minnesota.

The DNR Nongame Wildlife Program joined the restoration effort in the mid-1980s. DNR biologists collected eggs in Alaska, raised the chicks in captivity and released the swans at two years of age in western Minnesota. Trumpeter swans now nest across almost all of Minnesota and have expanded their range northward into western Ontario.

"All of the swans in the state are the progeny of the birds introduced at the Tamarac Refuge in Becker County, a few of those released at Itasca State Park and the birds from Hennepin County," Haws said. "We estimate that there are several hundred pairs of trumpeter swans in Beltrami County and they prefer smaller lake basins. They also need something to nest on like a muskrat hut."

When the swans were originally released at Tamarac Refuge the thought was that the birds would head west and make their home on the prairie potholes. But that isn't what happened.

"The swans are free to set up shop anywhere they want but seem to really prefer the forest wetlands over the prairie wetlands," Haws said. "And that came as a surprise."

pmiller@bemidjipioneer.com

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Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

(218) 333-9200
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