Members of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources continued their effort to restore the trumpeter swan population in Iowa with a release at the Iowa Great Lakes last week.
Two young swans were set free at the Kettleson Hogsback Wildlife Reserve northwest of Orleans. The event was part of Dickinson County's Wings and Wetlands weekend.
Trumpeter swans are the largest North American waterfowl and can weigh up to 35 pounds.
They have historically nested throughout the state, but nearly disappeared from the lower 48 states. Only 69 trumpeter swans remained in the continental United States in 1933. The future for trumpeter swans in Iowa was even more bleak:
The last recorded wild nesting trumpeter swan in Iowa occurred in 1883 near Belmond.
Several wild nesting trumpeters have been seen throughout the state since a restoration program began in 1995.
The DNR has released over 400 1- and 2-year- old trumpeter swans at more than 5 dozen sites as part of the restoration effort. Iowa officials have obtained trumpeters from 25 different states to increase the genetic diversity of the swans.
The first modem-day nesting pair was reported in 1998 at a Dubuque County farm pond near Epworth. The second nesting pair was reported two years later in Winnebago County at the Thorpe Park County Conservation Wildlife Area near Forest City. At least nine wild nesting trumpeters were found in 2001 and at least two pairs have been spotted near Dickinson County waters this year.
Swans released through the restoration program often have their wings clipped so that they have time to become comfortable in their surroundings. The young produced from these pairs are allowed free flight.
All Iowa swans are marked with plastic green or red neck collars with the letters F, J, H, P and two numbers.
Swans released in Iowa tend to winter in Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois and Nebraska. Iowa swans have been sighted in 15 states and one Canadian province.
DNR officials say the support for Iowa's Trumpeter Swan Restoration Program has been phenomenal. Fundraising has been an integral part of the restoration effort. The department received over $160,000 from outdoor enthusiasts David and Robert Sampson, formerly of Webster City. The department has established partnerships with private individuals, corporations, business organizations, county conservation boards and other DNR facilities.