This spring and early summer, biologists released 30 trumpeter swans on five different wetlands in the Blackfoot valley. The first release, on the Blackfoot WPA along Highway 200 east of Ovando, occurred in May. Over 90 students and their teachers from 6 schools in the watershed helped release the swans, while learning about swan biology and wetland ecology.
Each released swan wears a spiffy red neck collar with an individual letter and number code in white letters, as well as a matching leg band. This helps biologists track the movements and locations of individual swans as well as their fates, when sightings are reported by interested observers. For example, we have learned that some of the trumpeters previously released in the Blackfoot have spent their winters in southeast Idaho and southwestern Montana. We have also learned that several of our released swans have died, from collisions with powerlines, parasites and starvation, legal hunting and illegal shooting, and predation. We have not had sightings of several more, so it is unknown whether they are dead or alive.
However, several swans have also returned safely to the Blackfoot this year. There are at least 3 pairs that have established territories in the valley and will likely nest next year! There are a few more that are hanging out with the young swans that were released this spring, and may form pairs with some of them.
Eight of the swans released this year are also sporting satellite radios on their red and white collars. This allows us to keep tabs on the swans when they move, without having to rely on observations alone. This will be especially helpful when the swans begin to migrate out of the valley in the fall.
So far, of the 30 swans released this year, all but 2 are accounted for and near or at their release locations.