Jun 14, 2012 - The Associated PressHELENA, Mont. -- With trumpeter swan populations struggling in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, wildlife officials plan to release five young trumpeter swans into the restored wetlands of Montana's Madison River as part of an effort to bolster the declining populations of the species in the Northern Rocky Mountains.
If the state Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission approves the September release, it would start a five-year program to create a small population of the migratory birds that nest along the blue-ribbon trout stream northwest of Yellowstone National Park.
"They're a great icon for wetlands and wetland health," said Greg Neudecker, a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who worked on a similar reintroduction program in Montana's Blackfoot River Valley. "If they can link up with their partners in Canada and the U.S., hopefully we will increase our genetic viability among those populations."
Trumpeter swans are North America's largest waterfowl, with a wingspan up to 8 feet and weighing in at 30 pounds. They are not listed as endangered or threatened, though only about 500 birds nest in the Lower 48 states, compared to 4,500 in Canada.
The birds a familiar sight in Wyoming in Yellowstone National Park, even in winter, where there is open water all winter long.
Trumpeter swan populations in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming are declining, and of particular concern is the struggling population in Yellowstone that has stopped producing offspring. The decline has prompted a half-dozen restoration programs meant to boost swan populations and diversify their genetics across the region.
The Madison River project is a small but important part of that effort, said Tom Hinz, Montana Wetlands Legacy Partnership Coordinator for the state Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
"If we can just get a few pairs nesting there, we'll view that as a success," he said. "We're trying to connect the dots so that in valleys from southeastern Idaho to northwestern Montana, we'll have at least a few trumpeter swans in areas where wetlands exist."
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