Trumpeter swans continue to be a conservation success story

Results from a recent statewide trumpeter swan survey show that Minnesota’s population continues to grow. It is now estimated to be around 17,000 swans, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Nongame Wildlife Program.

Trumpeter swan in flightOnce eliminated from Minnesota and across much of the United States in the 1880s due to overharvest for food and value as a fur trade item to make powder puffs, trumpeter swans now grace the skies of Minnesota year round. The largest concentrations of breeding swans occur in north-central Minnesota and west of the Twin Cities.

“We are extremely pleased and encouraged by the results of this survey,” said Carrol Henderson, DNR Nongame Wildlife Program supervisor. “The survey was the first to occur in Minnesota during the trumpeter swan nesting season and is part of a cooperative effort to survey and monitor the status of trumpeter swans in North America.”

The survey was funded by the Nongame Wildlife Program, The Trumpeter Swan Society, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, all longstanding partners in the reintroduction effort.

In the early 1980s, after a previous attempt to reintroduce trumpeter swans in the state was met with limited success, the DNR Nongame Wildlife Program decided to fund the restoration with Nongame Wildlife checkoff donations from state income tax forms. The DNR partnered with the Hennepin County Park Reserve District (now Three Rivers Park District), The Trumpeter Swan Society, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, White Earth Indian Band, U.S. Forest Service, the Dellwood Foundation and many other swan enthusiasts to continue efforts to restore these birds to Minnesota.

For more than 20 years, reintroductions occurred in various areas throughout the state. By 2010, the state’s winter population estimate was about 6,000 birds and Minnesotans could easily observe them throughout much of the state.

Today, Minnesota has the largest population of trumpeter swans in the upper Midwest. “Minnesota is one of the best places in the nation to see them,” Henderson said. “The restoration of these magnificent birds has been made possible by donations to the Nongame Wildlife checkoff on state income tax and property tax forms, and the many trumpeter swan volunteers and enthusiasts who worked hard to recover this species.”

The trumpeter swan is the largest native waterfowl species in North America. While the DNR believes the trumpeter swan population is doing well in Minnesota, these birds are facing continued threats. Risks include loss of wetland habitat, being shot illegally, and poisoning from lead shotgun pellets and fishing weights.

People can help support Minnesota’s trumpeter swans by making a tax-deductible donation using the Nongame Wildlife checkoff this tax season.

For more information on trumpeter swans and the DNR Nongame Wildlife Program, its success stories, and ways to volunteer and donate, visit the nongame wildlife Web page.