Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Don't Shoot a Swan In Illinois!

One again the news has been  filled with the sad report of a trumpeter swan mistaken for a snow goose. In this most recent case  it was a mated pair who were injured. KSDK-TV in St. Louis  reports:
The Missouri Wildlife Commission arrested two people suspected of shooting two trumpeter swans.
The birds were shot with shotgun pellets on Friday in Winfield.
Other duck hunters in Winfield contacted the Missouri Wildlife Commission about the shooting.
The birds are  being treated at the World Bird Sanctuary in Valley Park. the female bird is expected to have surgery today 12/15. The male bird was not expected to have surgery. Treatment for the birds was estimated to cost between $7,000 and $10,000.
Officials were hopeful the birds may be rereleased into the wild in six to 10 weeks depending on how the surgery and recovery goes.
Trumpeter swans mate for life and officials suspect the birds were a couple. An excellent accounting can be found on the World Bird Sanctuary's blog

Personally – even given the fact that I am lousy at identifying ducks in flight – I find it hard to believe a hunter could mistake a trumpeter swan for a snow goose. Indeed it is easy to play the blame game as fellow waterfowl hunter Larry “ Legend”  Osborn noted during a discussion of this problem.
“You asked how does this happen every year? A very good question. I think as hunters we should shoulder some of the responsibility for not coming along side novice and under experienced waterfowlers. I have often hunted with others who have 5, 8, 12,  years in the field who can't tell a woodie from a scissor bill (merganser). We as seasoned hunters should stress to them the importance of knowing what their shooting at ! It's easy it play the blame game but we who truly love the sport could do more. No one wants to hurt swans - lets hope so  and lets not be afraid to tell our hunting friends to study up so that less mistakes happen in the field. “ 

Illinois DNR has been clear about how to tell the difference between swans and snows – a great many public waterfowl hunting areas where swans have been seen  have the guide that appears in the DNR Hunting Digest and Waterfowl Digest posted clearly near the hunter sign in areas.

Don’t Make a mistake! All Wild Swans are protected in Illinois.

The Trumpeter Swan Society has an excellent identification guide available as a PDF from their web site. Perhaps it would behoove us to print a copy to have stashed in the truck or blind bag to share with other waterfowl hunters from time to time.  The USGS also has an excellent online waterfowl identification guide available here
Another way you can help is to report any swan sighting that you have to the Illinois DNR Waterfowl program at:

Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Waterfowl Program
700 South 10th Street
Havana, IL 62644
(309) 543-3065

Don’t Shoot a Swan

  • Protected Species.
  • Long neck
  • Length: 4 ft.
  • Wingspan: 7 ft.
  • Weight: 20 - 30 lbs.
  • Legally hunted.
  • Short neck
  • Length: 1 1/2 ft.
  • Wingspan: 3 1/2 ft.
  • Weight: 3 - 6 lbs.


Deb said...

Oh that would be sad, those swans are so pretty! And you would think, if you are hunting something you would know what that "something" looks like and be able to tell the difference between them and another bird. Course I guess not all people do, after all we had a goat (one of the almost all WHITE ones) shot one year...probably by someone deer hunting. And as you know...deer aren't white usually! LOL The bad part about it was they were close to the barn, so someone shouldn't have been shooting there anyway!

Swamp Thing said...

I am a goose hunter through-and-through. And there is absolutely NO FREAKING WAY you could misidentify a snow goose for a swan - ANY SWAN. They don't flock together, either.

I mean, a swan is what, 35 lbs? and your average snow goose is 8lbs or so?

Another bad apple.

Gretchen Steele said...

Swampthing - I have to agree with you - I'm not so great at ID'g the flying ducks yet - but I sure as heck can tell a swan from a snow! The size difference is just tremendous, as is the difference in the silhouette . I've been buzzed by low flying swans and snows when photographing them and it's like a comparing a B52 Bomber to a Piper Cub!

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