On the hot muggy Monday morning recently, an unusual type of rescue was made on the southwestern outskirts of the sleeping town of Early. A rare trumpeter female swan, a second generation member of the Iowa DNR's swan restoration program, had a laceration on her right leg and required medical attention.
This particular swan had made an early spring migration from the Okalahoma City area where she had been wintering with her mate, another Iowa restoration bird. On many occasions this spring, the couple had been sighted by local area people looking for a new home location. It was hoped that the pair would find a suitable nesting site possibly at the recently restored Burrows Pond or Kiowa Marsh area just east of town, however, to everyone's surprise, they chose the Early Sewage Treatment Lagoons to set up housekeeping. It was this fact alone that made this rescue so much more difficult. It is not every day that a motorized boat is launched in these less than pristine waters. Following a close inspection of the site, it was discovered that the east most cell is currently serving as a gourmet-feeding table for the swans. Much of the water is covered with a vegetation called duckweed, which serves as a major food source for the species.
The party of 7 rescuers consisted of Early's two DNR officers from the Kiowa Marsh Refuge, Dave Holstad and Larry Kropf; city employee Raymond Musselman; city resident Dave Mertz; DNR second in command of the state's trumpeter swan restoration program, Dave Hoffman, and local co-operators, Cathy and Mike Griggs.
It just so happened that young Mr. Hoffman was on his way home from a short personal vacation out in Wyoming and was driving his own automobile packed full of his traveling necessities when the call went out for his help. Since Mr. Hoffman's small car did not have ample room for a large capture cage, normally used in this type of transport, he elected to sit the swan, wrapped in a large towel, in a small cardboard box on the passenger side of his car's front seat. He assured the group that an adult swan loves to ride in a car looking out the windows and enjoying the air conditioning. In his opinion, it beats the stress of flying.
Upon recovery, the injured female swan was removed from her family and immediately transported to the Orphaned & Injured Wildlife, Inc. agency located in Spirit Lake. This is a non-profit care organization managed by licensed rehabilitator, Linda Hinshaw. Mrs. Hinshaw cares for over 650 wild animals and birds each year. The Early swan remained at the center for a three-week period, receiving large doses of antibiotics and loving medical care.
On the afternoon of Monday, August 9, the recuperated pen was finally reunited with her family. For a short time, her family seemed not to recognize her and kept her at a far distance. It was evident from the reunion that her former mate and three adolescent cygnets had prepared themselves for her loss and were totally shocked to see her again upon her return.
Everyone has now adjusted and currently living the serene life upon this unusual site. In late October, it is expected that the family will again return to their wintering grounds near Okalahoma City, a flight of approximately 550 miles. Hopefully they will return and be among us again in the early spring of 2005.