MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — During this year’s open of waterfowl season, the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center admitted more trumpeter swans for bullet wounds than ever before.
Waterfowl season started in late September. The number of swans admitted to the hospital this fall is still low, currently standing at eight, but the DNR said that’s still higher than usual. A pair of swans admitted to the hospital in October share similar injuries, but were housed at WRC a couple weeks apart. Veterinarian hospital workers in Roseville see projectile wound, or bullet wound, injuries quite frequently.
“He’s got four pins sticking out,” said one vet technician who tended an injured male swan, or cob.
He is recovering from surgery on his left wing.
“He’s healing quite well, while the female, she arrived later and her wounds are already starting to heal,” said Renee Schott, a WRC veterinarian.
The cob was shot by hunters on a lake near Zimmerman, in the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. Witnesses helped rescue the cob almost immediately and delivered it to the rehab center on Oct. 10. The recovery time for these types of injuries is usually estimated to be four to six weeks.
“This wing needs to be pretty near perfect for it to be released,” said Schott, referring to the injured swans.
Schott took X-rays of both birds to examine the extent of their injuries.
“You can you see the X-ray of the male swan after he was shot, and this X-ray after the surgery. You can see the four pins put in place to secure that wing,” said Schott, describing what she was looking at in the pictures. “You can see this bone is well aligned.”
Schott had to surgically repair the male’s wing, placing four pins to better stabilize the ulna in order for the bird to attempt to fly again. It was upon examining the X-rays that Schott noticed the female trumpeter swan, or pen, was the male’s mate. They both had the same type of bullet wounds.
There also was no anxiety or stress when the pen was introduced to the cod at the hospital.
“Being able to reunite them is a really great thing,” Schott said.
It’s illegal to shoot trumpeter swans in Minnesota. Schott was hopeful that the reunion would help speed up the recovery process, but one month after being admitted to the hospital, the male trumpeter swan passed away.
The executive director of the Wildlife Rehab Center, Phil Jenni, isn’t sure if the shooting was intentional.
“There were other people in the vicinity who witnessed the swans flying into the water and being shot,” said Jenni, who has been working at the WRC for years.
DNR non-game wildlife specialist Lori Naumann believes the higher number of trumpeter swans visiting the hospital this season is for two reasons.
“They (hunters) see this white thing, and they aren’t entirely sure what it is,” Naumann said.
The other reason is due to inexperienced or uninformed hunters. Regardless, the DNR is trying to do its best to make sure trumpeter swans don’t become regular visitors at WRC.
The cob was sent to the University of Minnesota diagnostic lab for a necropsy, but the test results have not come back yet.
Three hunters have been charged. However, a DNR conservation officer said the case is still open because not all the fines have been paid. A fine for shooting a trumpeter swan is around $1,200.