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Advocates work to keep swans safe

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By Sharon Wootton
Published:
Majestic is often the word associated with eagles, but for sheer beauty and grace, I'll take trumpeter swans.
So will Martha Jordan. While the rest of us admire them, Jordan spends an inordinate amount of time trying to protect North America's largest waterfowl from the vagaries of humans.
Jordan, former director of the Trumpeter Swan Society, is the current coordinator of the local TSS branch, Washington Swan Stewards, based in Everett.
The trumpeters are landing in Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties, so Jordan is on call, monitoring the state Department of Fish and Wildlife swan hotline, working with volunteers, and still dealing with the issue of lead shot poisoning the swans.
There has been major progress on the lead shot front. By last winter, the mortality rate for trumpeter swans had been reduced to about 65 percent of the previous five-year average. Last year fewer than 100 swans died, the result of two countries working to solve the problem of lead shot-polluted Judson Lake, straddling the border between British Columbia and Whatcom County.
The lake, a popular roosting area for the swans, had been heavily hunted by hunters using lead shot. The shot went into the lake, swans and other birds fed on the pellets often trapped in the roots of water plants, and later died.
Hazing strategies, including laser lights and bamboo poles, have drastically lowered the swan population on the lake and thus the numbers of dead swans.
"It's a huge win for the swans," Jordan said.
It is now illegal for waterfowl hunters to use lead shot.
"I really appreciate the hunters (following the rules). But we have a tiny bit of noncompliance, and then there are the target shooters who, regardless of intelligence, have a disconnect in the brain," Jordan said.
"I'm pro-hunting and pro-shooting but I'm anti-lead. There is no safe level of lead. People shooting at targets or crows or starlings shoot lead shot over the same grounds that waterfowl use (and) that puts lead back into the environment.
"I wish they would choose to shoot with nontoxic shot or go to a shooting range where there's a recycling program, just don't shoot over wetlands or in an ag field where the birds come in."
A regulation now in effect for all the state's pheasant-release sites requires hunters to use nontoxic ammunition. The National Rifle Association opposed the regulation, Jordan said.
"But not using lead shot is a sign that you are concerned about conservation, and most hunters are concerned."
Jordan encourages everyone to use the swan hotline (360-466-4345, ext. 266) if they see sick, dying or dead swans. Leave as much information as you can and Jordan will return your call. The hotline is open through March.
"It's the easiest and fastest way to get help," she said.
"We want to document all swans' deaths. We need to know why they died. We'll pick up the birds to get the lead out of the environment."
And continue to gather information that will lead to saving the lives of trumpeter swans as well as introducing more of them into the swan population.
This year six trumpeter swans from Northwest Trek were released in Whatcom County, and Fish and Wildlife removed mute swans from one area and replaced them with two trumpeters that Jordan had raised.
For more information, go to the Trumpeter Swan Society website, www.swansociety.org.
Readers: I confess to being behind on answering questions from readers. Please bear with me!
Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or www.songandword.com.
Story tags » HuntingWildlife WatchingBird-watching

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