Sam Montgomery, 360-688-0721
OLYMPIA - Trumpeter and tundra swans are returning to Skagit, Snohomish, Whatcom, and other western Washington counties. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has re-established a hotline to report sick, injured, or dead swans in western Washington counties as part of its ongoing effort to assess the impact of lead poisoning on trumpeter and tundra swans.
People can call (360) 466-4345, ext. 266, to report swans that have died or need help in Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, and other western Washington counties. Callers should be prepared to leave a short message, including their name and phone number, a detailed location and condition of the swan(s). The hotline is available through March.
“With significant rainfall heading into December, the swans have arrived and have spread out across western Washington," said Kyle Spragens, WDFW waterfowl section manager. "Swans migrate to our area based on conditions hundreds to thousands of miles away, as these birds spend their summers in Alaska, western Yukon, and northern British Columbia.”
Some trumpeter and tundra swans in Washington and in southwestern British Columbia die each winter from a variety of causes, including exhaustion, powerline strikes, and lead poisoning after ingesting lead shot or other lead objects in areas where they feed.
Swans are closed to harvest, and lead shot has been banned for waterfowl hunting in Washington since 1991. But swans can still pick up and ingest lead shot while foraging in shallow underwater areas and in fields and roosts where lead pellets are still present.
“We advise people who observe sick, injured, or dead swans not to handle or collect the birds,” added Spragens. “Instead, people should call the hotline.”
It is through these reports that WDFW and partners, including Puget Sound Energy and Snohomish PUD employees, as well as volunteers from the Northwest Swan Conservation Association, know where to pick up these birds.
“With your help, this team response allows us to get birds to facilities trained in assessment and potential rehabilitation of swans, North America’s largest waterfowl, and reduces secondary lead exposure to other wildlife scavengers,” said Spragens.
Through this process, Whatcom Humane Society was able to rehabilitate 11 swans last season - one of which was sighted again near Fairbanks, Alaska 102 days after release. WDFW and other agencies and organizations have been working since 2001 to document and locate sources of toxic lead and minimize potential exposure through management actions.
The Department also has a blog to help the public learn more about swan populations and viewing opportunities.
WDFW works to preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.