Swans coming to Viking

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DNR plans release event for May 11

By Brad Hicks

A species that was once on the verge of extinction on the United States mainland is coming to Montgomery County. The Iowa DNR announced it will release two Trumpeter swans at Viking Lake State Park.

There will be a release event Thursday, May 11, at 1:30 p.m., rain or shine, at the park. The release will take place near the restaurant/beach area.

David Hoffman, of the DNR, said, “Viking Lake is a great spot that meets the wetland habitat requirements for the swans. It provides a great opportunity to promote water quality improvements, habitat, quality of life issues and our state parks in Iowa.”

The Viking Lake release event includes a 20-minute swan/wetland presentation, a unique opportunity to touch and view the swans up close, and a historic photo opportunity with the kids. The public is invited and encouraged to attend. There also may be a chance to participate in the upcoming film documentary, “Return of the Trumpeter Swans in North America,” by Steve Harryman and the Trumpeter Swan Society.

“As the largest North American waterfowl, these magnificent all-white birds can weigh up to 32 pounds with an 8-foot wingspan,” the DNR said in its press release. 

Fourteen swans are being released in state parks this year by the DNR.

The swans being released in southern Iowa are from the new zoo in Green Bay, Wis., and zoos in Kansas City, Mo., and Cleveland, Ohio. The public will have a chance to meet the zookeepers and ask questions. 

Also, one rehabilitated swan from the Iowa State University Wildlife Care clinic and one from Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota (WRC) will be released.  One swan cygnet was raised and donated by Kevin Drees of Des Moines, and one is from the city of Humboldt.  

Hoffman said, “The cygnets are approximately 11 months old. They have never flown; the flight feathers on one wing are trimmed. After their molt, they will grow their new flight feathers. About late July, they will then learn to fly and “imprint” on the area. Usually they stay with 15-20 miles the first fall. We hope they migrate south for the winter and return to nest in southern Iowa within 50 miles of the release area. It often takes six years for a female and four years for a male to reach breeding age.  Unfortunately, there is over a 75 percent mortality rate on swans before they reach the breeding age. It is unlikely that swans will nest at Viking Lake since they typically prefer a more secluded and densely vegetated wetland area.”

Hoffman added, “We encourage people to respect and give the swans their space. We encourage people not to feed swans human food. Their natural aquatic food is preferred for them.  Feeding often enables the swans to rely on people, this is undesirable since it often prevents them from migrating south in the winter and they can stick around longer into the winter than normal and gets into trouble when people stop feeding them. Many times people feed day old or moldy bread/food and inadvertently kill swans and other wildlife. 

“Two of the previous years’ released swans were rather tame.  They were imprinted on people at a very young age. Usually the swans are more wild. Swans that are more wild and avoid people are less likely to get into conflicts with the public.

“One of the current and rather “tame” swan at Viking was “stolen from his parents” as a young cygnet.  We would like to relay an important message about leaving wildlife babies alone,” he said.

Swan can mate for life. Swans form monogamous pair bonds that last for many years, and in some cases these bonds can last for life. If one mate dies, they can often find and form a bond with a new mate.

The release said Trumpeter swans were once common in Iowa, but were gone from the state by the late 1880s. By the early 1930s, only 69 Trumpeter swans remained in the lower 48 states.  

The Trumpeter swans being released are part of the DNR’s statewide trumpeter swan restoration effort, with hopes that they will help restore a wild free-flying population to Iowa. Public support is key to achieving this objective, the press release said.



Getting there: From Stanton: travel 2 mile east on Highway 34, turn right on Q Avenue, travel ½ mile south, turn left on 230th Stree, and travel 1 mile east. The release will take place near the restaurant/beach area.


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