A group of Good Samaritans recently rescued an injured trumpeter swan on the upper St. Croix River. It could not fly due to wing injuries, and would not survive the winter ahead.
Frequent fisherman Jeff Butler (also leader of the National Park Service’s Vets on the River program) saw the swan several times this fall, near Danbury, Wis. He even gave it a name, Muskie. Butler became worried when it would not fly away when approached, and then concerned when the weather got colder and the bird still didn’t leave.
On Dec. 6, Butler and a group including swan rescuers from Hudson and National Park Service rangers captured Muskie and got it to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Roseville, Minnesota.
While many stories of sick swans are the result of lead poisoning from eating fishing tackle, this bird had injuries on both wings, possibly from flying into a power line. The veterinarians unfortunately had to euthanize the bird, after determining that it could not recover from its injuries.
They credited the rescuers with preventing it from suffering a long, painful death during the coming winter.
“Breaks in the joints in birds is something that is so serious. Pain from the arthritis is severe and chronic. Since Muskie is a very wild and regal critter, he can’t be asked to suffer for our benefit,” the veterinarians wrote. “Please know that you did what was right for that Trumpeter. He was peacefully and painlessly humanely euthanized, with dignity in loving and very capable hands.”
Trumpeter swans are the largest waterfowl in the world. They were once almost extinct in the upper Midwest, but have made a successful comeback since being reintroduced by government agencies.
There were only 70 wild birds in the Lower 48 in the 1930s, but by bringing eggs down from the Alaskan population, it was rebuilt. There are now about 46,000 trumpeter swans, including many that migrate up the St. Croix every spring, nesting in ponds and wetlands in its valley. More information about swans and protecting them is available from the Trumpeter Swan Society.
Previous trumpeter swan stories on St. Croix 360: