AR-News: Biologists investigate trumpeter swan deaths
wolfcrest at hotmail.com
Mon Apr 26 19:05:12 EDT 2004
Biologists investigate trumpeter swan deaths
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER STAFF
Federal and state biologists will perform necropsies on hundreds of
trumpeter swans in Bellingham next week in an ongoing investigation of the
deaths of 1,400 of the giant birds in the region over the past five years.
The deaths have occurred in northern Whatcom County and in British
Columbia's Sumas Valley. Researchers are looking for signs of lead
poisoning, which has been found to be the cause of the most of the deaths
since December 2000.
The source of the poisoning is thought to be the birds' ingestion of old
lead shotgun pellets even though the use of lead shot to hunt waterfowl was
outlawed in Washington in 1991.
According to Martha Jordan, volunteer coordinator for the Trumpeter Swan
Society, an estimated 400 of the graceful birds died in Whatcom County this
winter as a result of ingesting lead pellets, which the birds consume during
feeding in areas where hunting occurred.
"This is the largest die-off from lead poisoning for swans anywhere in North
America," Jordan said. "There is concern that this mortality will affect the
overall population by reduction of breeding-age birds."
However, the swans, which migrate from Alaska to winter nesting grounds in
the Northwest, appear to be growing in numbers, said Cindy Schexnider, an
environmental contaminants specialist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service in Olympia. She said it is difficult to know whether the mortality
rate from lead poisoning is rising or falling "because we do see more
Jordan said it's unclear why, 13 years after lead shot was outlawed,
trumpeter swans are still picking up the pellets as they feed.
However, it still is legal to use lead shot for shooting game birds other
than waterfowl, and experts have said hundreds of tons of old lead pellets
have settled into lakes, marshes, wetlands, fields and other hunting areas
over the decades.
Schexnider and Mike Smith, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of
Fish and Wildlife, will perform the necropsies on the swans May 2-7 at
Western Washington University's Hannegan Environmental Center laboratory.
The Trumpeter Swan Society, a continentwide organization, is looking for
volunteers to help set up a laboratory, record results of the necropsies
and, on May 2, to transport the dead swans from the Kendall Creek Hatchery
to the laboratory. Volunteers are also needed May 3-7 for general assistance
HOW TO HELP
People interested in volunteering may call the Trumpeter Swan Society's
Martha Jordan at 425-787-0258 or e-mail swanlady at drizzle.com
Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to
embrace all living creatures. Albert Einstein
FREE pop-up blocking with the new MSN Toolbar get it now!
More information about the AR-News