(Corning) -- They were a common sight in the region in the 1800's. Now, efforts are underway to restore the trumpeter swan population in KMAland.
Iowa Department of Natural Resources officials are releasing eight trumpeter swans at three locations in southwest Iowa Thursday and Friday. Four swans will be released on the north side of Lake Icaria at the east boat ramp Thursday at 9:30 a.m., in partnership with the Adams County Conservation Board. Two more will be released at Viking Lake near the restaurant/beach area Thursday at 1 p.m. The third release involving another pair is scheduled at Lake Anita Friday at 1:30 p.m., in partnership with the Cass County Conservation Board. Dave Hoffman is a wildlife research technician with the DNR, and the department's trumpeter swan restoration coordinator. Hoffman tells KMA News the releases are part of the DNR's goal of creating a self-sustaining population of swans south of Interstate 80.
"We have two pair that are nesting south of Interstate 80, in the southern half of the state," said Hoffman. "We'd like to have eight or 10 to get a good start in southern Iowa. Many of the swans pioneer their nesting efforts farther north, so, unfortunately, when we release swans in southern Iowa, many of those still travel north into northern Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, as well. Hopefully, we can get a population established down there. It's just great to see people come out, and see the support, and people get a chance to learn about swans, water quality, and the environment, as well."
Most trumpeter swans were gone from Iowa by the 1880's. By the early 1930's, only 69 trumpeter swans remained in the lower 48 states. Among other things, Hoffman says the birds bring awareness of the diversity of the state's species.
"People say they were here to start with," he said. "We would certainly like to have them back again. They serve as ambassadors for our wetlands, and water quality. That's how wetlands act as Mother Nature's water filters--similar to kidneys in our own bodies, filtering out pollutants. They also act as sponges for our flood control. So, they're just really valuable--the wetlands--for our environment, and swans really promote that awareness, and serve as ambassadors."
Hoffman says the swans were donated from zoos across the country.
"We have swans from Maryland, the Cleveland Zoo, the Kansas City Zoo," said Hoffman. "We have two swans that were actually orphaned and injured in Wisconsin, one from Minnesota. Fortunately, they weren't euthanized. They were able to be utilized in our restoration program. So, it's nice to be able to restore these, and release these back to the wild, as well."
Each release includes a 20-minute swan/wetland presentation, plus an opportunity to touch and view the swans up close, and a photo opportunity with children. All releases will occur rain or shine.