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New hope for migrating trumpeter swans

For Immediate Release
May 27, 1999
EA 99-22

Contact: Mike Oliver 812-522-4352
E-mail: Mike_Oliver@mail.fws.gov


Bringing with her the hopes for a new migrating population of rare trumpeter
swans, a female trumpeter has made the 730-mile return journey from
Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge to Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.  Part of
an experiment to establish a new migratory flock, the trumpeter was one of
four swans that followed an ultra-light aircraft last winter from Canada to
southern Indiana in an effort to teach the birds a migratory route between
summer nesting grounds and a new wintering area.

The trumpeters left Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in early February.
female made the return trip to Canada without the help of the ultra-light to
lead the way.  Her arrival on May 5, 1999, back at the site where she and
other trumpeters were trained to follow an ultra-light was confirmed by
members of the Migratory Bird Research Group, the team of scientists who
trained the birds.

"This is a very exciting step in the process of establishing a new migratory
flock of trumpeters," said Muscatatuck Refuge Biologist Mike Oliver.  "The
fact that this trumpeter made it back to the training site in Canada means
she, and possibly the other birds, learned the migratory route by following
the ultra-light south last winter.  Our hope is that some of the other
Muscatatuck birds will also return, and ultimately, that one or more of them
make the fall journey back to southern Indiana to spend the winter."

Efforts by the Migratory Bird Research Group to reestablish such a
population began in the summer of 1998.  Migratory Bird Research Group
biologist Wayne Bezner-Kerr and his colleagues experimented with various
techniques to raise young trumpeters and teach them to follow an ultra-light
aircraft.  After months of practice, a group of young swans departed their
training grounds in southern Ontario in early December and followed
Bezner-Kerr, who piloted the ultra-light.

The group of four trumpeters flew with the ultra-light along a route through
Michigan, Ohio, and into Indiana.  They reached their final stop,
Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, near Seymour, Indiana, on December 23,
1998.  The trumpeters then wintered at the refuge, while refuge staff kept a
close eye on them.

"Since the time the swans left the refuge in February, we had no
confirmation of
the trumpeters' location until the female was reported May 5," said Oliver.
"We hope the remaining swans will be accounted for soon."

Trumpeter swans, the largest waterfowl in North America, once existed
much of the northern United States and wintered as far south as southern
Indiana and Illinois.  However, unregulated killing and loss of habitat
caused populations to dwindle.  Before last winter's historic experimental
flight, a migrating
population had not been seen in southern Indiana for more than 100 years.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and
their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The
Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System
comprising more than 500 National Wildlife Refuges, thousands of small
wetlands, and other special management areas. It
also operates 65 National Fish Hatcheries, 64 Fish and Wildlife Assistance
Offices, and 78 Ecological Services Field Offices.  The agency enforces
federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages
migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries,
conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign
governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal
Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes
on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies.  For more
information about endangered species and other programs managed by the
Service, please visit our web site at: