Wisconsin Waterfowl Hunters Cautioned to Watch for Swans, Whooping Cranes
Trumpeter swans may be removed from state endangered species list
MADISON – Even as Wisconsin prepares to conduct public hearings on a proposal to remove trumpeter swans from the state’s endangered species list, wildlife ecologists are still cautioning waterfowl hunters that they need to be careful in identifying all birds before shooting.
“Accidental or intentional shooting continues to be a significant cause of death for our recovering population of trumpeter swans,” says Sumner Matteson, an avian ecologists with the Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Endangered Resources.
Water fowl hunters need to use care in bird identification
Trumpeter swans are the largest waterfowl species in North America. Adults are all white and stand up to 5 feet tall, weighing between 20 and 35 pounds with a 7-foot wingspan. Younger swans, called cygnets, have grayish plumage and are smaller, but are still are significantly larger than Canada geese, with which they are sometimes confused.
Matteson says that about 120 pairs of endangered trumpeter swans nested in Wisconsin this year, and wildlife officials estimate the total population of free-flying trumpeter swans in the state at above 600. Many of the swans are immature, so they have a not yet developed their signature white feathers and have a more grayish plumage.
In addition to trumpeter swans, Wisconsin also has a growing population of about 70 endangered whooping cranes (21 more getting ready for introduction this fall) and both the swans and cranes will soon begin fall migrations.
Whooping cranes also have snow white plumage with the exception of black wing tips (wings appear entirely white, when not in flight) and a black mustache. They are 5 feet tall with a 7 to 8 foot wing span, and weigh up to 17 pounds. Juveniles have a plumage that is heavily mottled with cinnamon-brown feathers.
Whooping cranes are currently found in wetlands in numerous central Wisconsin counties, Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, Horicon Marsh, and privately Wisconsin wetlands, in addition to Minnesota and Michigan, as they prepare to migrate, according to Beth Kienbaum, DNR whooping crane coordinator. The crane reintroduction program is being carried out by the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, which is working to reestablish an eastern migratory population.
The growing swan population is due to a successful restoration effort that began in 1987 that involved collecting swan eggs from Alaska, and then hatching and rearing the swans for release in Wisconsin. The whooping cranes are members of a growing population that has primarily remained within the lower two-thirds of the state along major Wisconsin rivers and wetlands, and in the core reintroduction area of the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge.
Proposal would remove trumpeter swans from state endangered species list
The trumpeter swan recovery program has been so successful, that the department is proposing to remove the species from the state threatened and endangered species list. A proposed rule will delete trumpeter swan from the Wisconsin endangered species list and the osprey from the Wisconsin threatened species list. A public hearing on the proposal will be held October 20 at 4 p.m. in Room G09, Natural Resources State Office Building, in Madison .
“The proposed removal of the osprey and trumpeter swan from the state list would not have been possible without the many conservation partnerships between private organizations, businesses, scores of dedicated individuals, and state, federal, and tribal governments that have helped restore populations of these birds. Both species will continue to receive protection under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act,” Matteson says.
The unintentional shooting of a protected swan or crane can result in fines and restitution costs exceeding $2,000; the intentional shooting of a swan can exceed $5,000 in fines and restitution costs. Additionally, hunters found guilty of shooting a trumpeter swan can loose their hunting privileges for up to three years.
Since the swan reintroduction program began, more than 30 Wisconsin trumpeter swans have been shot accidentally or intentionally in the Midwest, Matteson says.
“Hunters have done a great job in learning the differences between swans and geese, but with the growing number of swans and now whooping cranes present in the state, we want to remind them to continue to be vigilant in identifying their game.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Sumner Matteson – (608) 266-1571 and Beth Kienbaum – (608) 266-3219