Jackson non-profit works to bring Trumpeter swans back to Montana

(Jackson, Wyo.) - A local organization is playing a key role is getting the Trumpeter Swan reintroduced into the western states, including Montana. These large iconic birds are becoming more common in the intermountain west due to efforts of The Wyoming Wetlands Society. A recent report on Trumpeter swan nesting and production reviews efforts since the late 1990’s to reestablish trumpeter swans in Northwest Montana. Dale Becker, Wildlife Biologist for the Confederated Salish Kootenai tribes, outlines historical declines in swans noting that the Hudson Bay Company harvested some 108,000 swans between 1823 and 1880. Swans were eliminated from this area by the early 1900s. Today the swans are back and flourishing in the Flathead Valley, Montana, a result of the local non-profit's effort. Interest in reestablishing swans to their former range has increased in recent years and interagency efforts to refine the focus of planning efforts resulted in the Pacific Flyway Council developing a Trumpeter Swan Implementation Plan in 2002. When the Flathead, Montana program was initiated there were no swans in the Flathead. After Three years of releases, nesting pairs of swans started showing up on the Flathead Indian Reservation and adjacent areas, the first nesting swans in over 100 years. Those numbers have increased from 3 pairs in 2004 to 24 pairs in 2015. The Wyoming Wetlands Society (TWS), located here in Jackson, Wyoming, has been a key player in these efforts. “The Wetlands Society provided over 200 swans to this effort since 1999 and we were thrilled to be a part of that effort,” said Bill Long the organizations Program Director. Becker noted in his report that the Lower Flathead Community Foundation assisted the Wyoming Wetland Society in locating 24 adult and sub-adult Trumpeter swans at a waterfowl breeding facility in Montana to supply breeding adults for the project to help jump start the restoration effort. Those breeding birds were housed in Jackson, Wyoming and the cygnets that they produced were sent to the restoration project in the Flathead annually. The study also shows swan mortalities are still occurring with over 100 swans found dead between 2002 and 2015 and although many of the deaths are from unknown causes, the biggest cause of death was from collisions with power lines. This information has spurred managers and power companies in northwestern Montana to work together to reduce collisions by marking power lines at key crossing points. Although swan numbers have been increasing, risks for the population still remain and work continues to build these swan populations to secure levels. *Feature Photo: h/t Wyoming Wetlands Society / Pitchengine Communities* #buckrail #news