Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Trumpeters taking a hit along Lake Erie

Oak Harbor, Ohio – One of the staples of the early morning talks
that Pat Baranowski gives to waterfowl hunters at Magee Marsh is
proper bird identification.

“No skybusting, and please don’t shoot a swan,” he said during
one particular pre-hunt talk this fall. Baranowski is the wildlife
area supervisor at Magee, where coveted controlled waterfowl hunts
are offered during the season.

Telling the difference between a swan and a goose has been
particularly troublesome this year, two swans having been shot out
of one Magee blind on the same day in late October.

“That’s the sixth and seventh ones (killed) this year, so
they’re taking a hit,” Baranowski said.

A_couple of more dead birds added to the equation would mean
that roughly a tenth of the population has been wiped out this
year. In fact, that may have happened already, said Paul Kurfis,
law enforcement supervisor for the DNR_Division of Wildlife in
northwest Ohio.

“The ones that we know about are Nos. 6 and 7,” he said. “If
there are seven swans being killed that we’re aware of, how many
are there that we’re not?”

Shooting an endangered swan is a first-degree misdemeanor,
punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine, six months in jail, and loss
of hunting privileges. The restitution value of the bird is $2,500,
which was raised from $1,000 in new regulations that went into
effect this year.

Restitution can be sought in one of two ways, said Ken Fitz, a
law enforcement administrator with the Division of Wildlife. A
judge can order the restitution be paid as part of the case in
court. Barring that, the chief of the Division of Wildlife also has
the ability to request the amount through a letter mailed to the
subject in the case.

“We have the ability to suspend hunting rights until the
restitution has been paid,” said Fitz.

The eight incidents all occurred along the Lake Erie shoreline,
said Kurfis. In the latest incident, two trumpeters were killed by
individuals hunting from the same blind on the same day at Magee
Marsh.

“I guess (the hunters) thought they were geese, but there’s no
excuse for it,” said Baranowski.

One of the birds was found poorly concealed near the blind while
the second was spotted from the air by wildlife investigators
flying an airplane over the marsh, said Kurfis.

“It’s disturbing,” Kurfis said. “Every year, we seem to have one
or two (trumpeters killed) but this year is a little unusual.”

Trumpeter swans are large birds, weighing anywhere from 20 to 35
pounds, standing 4 feet tall with a 7-foot wingspan. They’re much
larger than any typical goose, which is what they are often
mistaken for on the wing.

“In past years, they’ve been mistaken for snow geese, but I’m
sure if (hunters) saw a snow goose or a Canada goose flying along
beside (a trumpeter) the difference would be very obvious,” said
Kurfis. “Whether it was early morning light or hunters looking into
the sun, I would like to think there’s some reason to misidentify
something like that.”

Trumpeter swans were part of a reintroduction effort carried out
by the Division of Wildlife beginning in 1996. Magee Marsh was the
site of the first release of swans. The last release was in 2003
with the final number being about 154, said Dave Sherman, a
waterfowl biologist for the Division of Wildlife at Crane Creek in
northwest Ohio.

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