The Trumpeter Swan is one of North America’s largest flying birds, but sheer size didn’t save this waterfowl from a near brush with extinction.
Fortunately, the swan’s numbers have rebounded in recent years, following wildlife breeding programs and concerted efforts to conserve the bird’s rapidly disappearing wetlands habitat. The Trumpeter Swan remains threatened, but the success these efforts has helped populations rebound across Alaska, Canada, and many Western/Midwestern states. Now an estimated 16,000 Trumpeter Swans exist in the wild.
Sadly, this threatened species suffered another blow when a Trumpeter Swan named Pete passed away in central Oregon. Pete had personally taken a very active role in the state’s breeding program by fathering 15 baby swans.
According to The Bend Bulletin, Pete passed away battling a bacterial infection. Pete’s sudden death also leaves his mate, Eloise, without a breeding partner because swans’ mate for life. Sadly, Eloise has also lost her mate just months before breeding season.
Nor was Pete the only Trumpeter Swan to die in recent months. Just three months before, a fellow Trumpeter Swan named Gracie (who hatched another 12 baby swans) was killed in a suspected coyote attack. The sudden loss has also left Gracie’s partner, Gus, in search of a new mate. The loss of two prolific breeders also spells bad news for Trumpeter Swans in general.
“We have to live with the cards we are dealt, but it would be nice to have a couple broods,” a fellow wildlife biologist and former president of the Trumpeter Swan Society told the newspaper.
Increasing Oregon’s number of breeding swans wouldn’t just help local populations connect, according to Ivey. It would also help the estimated 1,000 Trumpeter swans living across the continental U.S.
“Those are wild-hatched birds that are actually adding to the flock,” Ivey said. “We should be building momentum on that and producing more wild -hatched birds every year.”