Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Minnesota trumpeter swan population tops 5,500

A statewide aerial survey conducted Jan. 5 – 8 revealed that the
population of trumpeter swans in Minnesota has more than doubled in
the last five years, according Larry Gillette, wildlife manager for
Three Rivers Park District, which organized the survey.

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

“The results are actually higher than almost everyone expected,”
said Gillette. “Conditions were ideal for the survey this winter,
because deep snow kept swans out of agricultural fields where they
would be hard to see, and cold weather reduced the number of areas
with open water.”

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 to Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Oklahoma
and Kansas for the winter. The estimate is that around 600
trumpeters migrate from Minnesota. Adding these migrant swans to
the number counted in Minnesota adds up to almost 6,000
birds.

However, some Minnesota swans have spilled over the border and are
now nesting in the Kenora District of western Ontario. These birds
migrate back to Minnesota for the winter and are counted in the
survey. Therefore, the actual number of trumpeter swans present in
Minnesota in September, 2010 is estimated at 5,500. The population
estimate in 2005 was slightly more than 2,000 trumpeters, so the
population has been growing at more than 20 percent per year.

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. This joint effort resulted in a spectacular
wildlife restoration success story. Trumpeter swans now nest across
almost all of Minnesota and have expanded their range northward
into western Ontario, Canada.

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