If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
MADISON — Cooperative efforts to restore trumpeter swans in Wisconsin have been highly successful, and similar efforts to reintroduce whooping cranes continue to show progress.
Trumpeter swans were removed from the state endangered species list in 2009 and the number of nesting pairs has reached 240 in 25 counties, according to preliminary results from 2014 surveys. The effort to restore whooping cranes has resulted in 93 cranes in Wisconsin as of late August.
As trumpeter swans and whooping cranes begin to fly through Wisconsin skies en route to their winter homes, state wildlife officials are reminding waterfowl hunters to carefully identify all birds before shooting.
“Hunters have done a great job in learning the differences between swans, geese and whooping cranes,” said Sumner Matteson, avian ecologist with the Department of Natural Resources Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation. “As trumpeter swan populations continue to increase, unintentional shootings of these birds are still an issue, so we urge hunters to continue to be vigilant in identifying their game.”
Both wild swans and whooping cranes are protected species in Wisconsin and illegal to shoot.
Young trumpeter and tundra swans are grayish and may be mistaken for a Canada goose, especially on a cloudy day. Mature swans are white with a black bill, often resembling snow geese from a distance. Adult whooping cranes are also white (juveniles are brown and white), but are much larger, standing at nearly five feet tall with long legs that trail behind in flight.
The best way to distinguish each species is through call identification. Observers have described the trumpeter’s call as resonant, deep, loud and trumpet-like. The snow goose has a high-pitched, quavering call.
Whooping cranes, which are protected under state and federal endangered species laws and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, are found mostly in central Wisconsin as the result of an ongoing reintroduction project called the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership.
Whooping crane chicks that are partially raised and trained by Operation Migration at DNR’s White River Marsh State Wildlife Area in Green Lake County are slated to take off in late September behind ultralight planes and make their way out of Wisconsin to their winter home at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge near Tampa, Fla. Additionally, up to four crane chicks being raised by captive cranes will be released at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge as part of the parent reared project.
The unintentional shooting of a protected swan can result in state fines and restitution costs exceeding $2,000. The state penalty for intentionally shooting a whooping crane is a fine not less than $2,000, nor more than $5,000 or imprisonment for not more than nine months or both. In addition, violators face a three-year revocation of all hunting privileges. Federal penalties may also apply.
More tips and photos to help identify swans are available through Identifying Swans.