OLYMPIA – In a continuing effort to monitor trumpeter swans that have succumbed to lead poisoning, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has re-established a hotline to report dead or ill swans in Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties.
People can call (360) 466-4345, ext. 266, to report dead or sick swans. Callers should be prepared to leave a message including their name and phone number, and the location and condition of the swans. The hotline is available 24 hours a day through the end of March.
Some trumpeter swans in Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties, and in southwestern British Columbia, die each winter from lead poisoning after ingesting lead shot in areas where they feed.
Lead shot has been banned for waterfowl hunting in Washington and British Columbia for more than a decade, but biologists believe swans are likely reaching shallow underwater areas in fields and roosts where spent lead shot is still present.
People who see sick or dead swans are advised not to handle or attempt to move the birds, said Paul DeBruyn, WDFW wildlife biologist. WDFW and Puget Sound Energy employees, as well as volunteers from the Washington Waterfowl Association and the Trumpeter Swan Society, will pick up the birds, he said.
WDFW and other agencies and organizations have been working since 2001 to locate sources of toxic lead.
Since 2006, hazing crews have worked to discourage swans from using Judson Lake, a significant source of lead poisoning on the U.S.-Canada border in Whatcom County. As a result of that effort, the number of lead-related swan mortalities in northern Puget Sound dropped to about 75 per year, about 65 percent less than the previous five-year average, said DeBruyn.
For the third straight year, biologists will place bamboo poles in portions of the lake to keep birds from landing or swimming in areas with concentrations of lead shot, DeBruyn said. Swans that do access those areas will be hazed from the lake.