OUTDOOR HAPPENINGS: Trumpeter swans: Once rare, now flourishing


On Jan. 12, the Friends of the Hudson Library, in conjunction with the annual Hudson Hot Air Affair, hosted Barry Wallace, swan enthusiast, who spoke on the reintroduction of the trumpeter swan.

Following a short film describing the reintroduction effort, Barry led the group to a viewing area on the St. Croix River where the water is open year around. There, waterfowl find a place to congregate during frigid weather.

Wisconsin has some extremely successful wildlife reintroduction stories. Along with the turkey, elk and fisher, the trumpeter swan's resurgence is truly remarkable. In 1932 there were only 70 trumpeter swans identified worldwide. In the early 1950's a population of swans was located in Alaska, and in 1989 eggs from that group of swans were brought back to Wisconsin.

North America has three species of swans, including the native trumpeter and tundra swans along with the non-native mute swan. The tundra swan was once called whistling swan. Both the tundra and mute swans are much smaller that the trumpeter and, when swimming, the trumpeter swan holds its head erect while the mute swan has its head in an S-shaped curve.

The trumpeter swan is the largest swan in the world with an 8-foot wing span and can weigh up to 35 pounds.

The adult male is called a "cob" while an adult female is a "pen." The young are known as "cygnets."

The Alaskan swan eggs were hatched in at the Milwaukee County Zoo. The cygnets were then raised either by "captive rearing" where they spent two years before being released or were "decoy raised" at Crex Wildlife Area. Decoy-raised swans were taught swan behavior by human interns who rode in camouflaged inner tubes, pulling a large decoy momma swan. The swans raised in this manner had minimal human contact. The swan project was paid for mostly by private funding.

While most of the trumpeter swans winter in Missouri near St. Louis, a large number congregate in Wisconsin where there is open water and food. The St Croix River shoreline at Hudson, where the train trestle crosses the river remains open all year long. Several hundred of these animals can be viewed there at any time of day.

Besides the usual predators, the most serious problem the swans and other waterfowl face is lead poisoning, caused by spent lead shotgun pellets and lead fishing sinkers and baits. On our walk over to view the swans, we saw a couple that were separated from the others and probably had lead exposure. Lead poisoning is almost 100 percent lethal.

Power line collisions have also been a problem, but in recent years objects have been hung from the lines to provide better visibility to the birds. That has resulted in much reduced mortality.

Sportsman's Alliance: Active since 1963

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, "alliance" is defined as a union or kinship of common interests.

The St. Croix County Sportsman's Alliance embodies that definition. It is a union or kinship of all the outdoor recreational organizations in the county. It works with local, state and federal units of government to promote outdoor recreational opportunities and public education.

The history of the Alliance goes back to its incorporation in 1963 with the first official meeting held in March of that year. George Moeller was its first president, Ron Warner was the vice president, Ervin Larson served as secretary, and Harold Shay rounded out the officers as treasurer.

Ross Dewitt was the representative from Glenwood City, Carl (Walter) Simonson from Hudson, and Ted Myron came from Baldwin.

Over the next 50 years the Alliance has been involved in almost every aspect of outdoor recreation, education and environmental applications carried out in the county. Every boat access and landing on the county lakes has had Alliance involvement.

For many years, the Day Old Pheasant Chick Program in the county provided increased hunting opportunities. Currently funds are provided for the purchase and stocking of adult rooster pheasants before the season opener.

Aeration systems on Baldwin Pine Lake, Squaw Lake and Hatfield Lake were put into operation with the help of the Alliance. The development of the Cylon Wildlife Area and Cylon Marsh were also Alliance projects.

Other major projects over the years include work on the Willow River Race in the State Park, Apple River rehabilitation work in Star Prairie and Baldwin Pine Lake and fisheries rehabilitation following the draining of the lake due to a limestone fault opening on the lake's bottom.

Conservation and environmental education has always been a strong focus of the Alliance. Numerous books and publications have been donated to area libraries. Fish and wildlife mounts have been supplied to libraries, schools and public buildings.

Scholarships and grants for teachers and students to attend conservation and environmental classes and courses are an annual part of the Alliance budget.

Several years ago, Bruce Anderson, a local conservation leader and active member of the Alliance, passed away at a very early age. In his memory a scholarship fund was established by the Alliance.

This year a second scholarship will be added in memory of another conservationist and alliance member, Greg Warner. Money generated as interest from the "Bruce Anderson - Greg Warner Scholarship Fund" will be used to provide two scholarships to area students pursuing careers in a conservation related field.

In 2012, besides providing matching funds for the purchase and release of 200 mature pheasants onto huntable county land, the Alliance provided tree planters for extensive tree planting in the county, provided a herbicide distribution system to help combat invasive species, supported the venison donation program, purchased recycling barrels to be used at area functions, dedicated two scholarships for area students, sponsored three Kid's Fishing Day at Willow River State Park and Perch Lake, sponsored classes of students at the New Richmond High School Service Day, and provided funds for the mounting of several fish and waterfowl for educational and display purposes.

The Alliance is now planning to dedicate the 2013 conservation aides project money to provide fishing access, a path and parking lot off River Road near the headwaters of the Kinni River near River Falls.

The Alliance generates funds annually through a conservation banquet held in March. Other funding sources come from "county aids," which is money from the state that is matched by the county. The Alliance is able to select a project and direct that money to the project.

In 2012, working with several other partners and the Bass Lake District, woody debris and fish cribs were placed in Bass Lake to provide much needed fish habitat to that lake. The Alliance also owns tree planters that are rented to county landowners at a nominal fee. Funds generated by the rental are used to maintain the planters.

The St. Croix County Sportsman's Alliance has no annual dues and meets every two months but keeps strong communication among its members throughout the year. In the summer the meetings are moved throughout the county to areas that have active Alliance projects. In the winter the meetings are usually held at the Land and Water Conservation Building in Baldwin.

The Alliance considers any member of any county conservation or outdoor organization a member and welcomes anyone to become involved.

Present officers include President Kyle Kulow of Baldwin (715-684-3928), Vice President Dave Larson from Glenwood City (715-531-1923) and Secretary/Treasurer Mike Reiter from Osceola (715-294-3950).

Persons interested in getting involved in area projects or wanting more information, may call one of the officers.