Vets unable to save injured trumpeter swan from Waconia

Despite the best efforts of the veterinarians at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota, this injured trumpeter swan found in Waconia in May had to be euthanized last week. (Submitted photo)
Despite the best efforts of the veterinarians at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota, this injured trumpeter swan found in Waconia in May had to be euthanized last week. (Submitted photo)

Despite the best efforts to save a white trumpeter swan that had been illegally shot and found in Waconia in May, the injuries proved too severe and the bird was euthanized on Wednesday, July 2.

The ordeal began on May 17 when Waconia resident Nina Roberts Salveson discovered a seriously injured and grounded trumpeter swan near a pond near her home. According to Roberts Salveson, the bird’s injuries included a broken left wing and a gunshot wound (the bird has been protected by federal law since the 1930s).

Sensing that the bird was in trouble, Roberts Salveson contacted several area nature centers and/or veterinarians but none of those resources were able to provide assistance. Despite the challenges, Roberts Salveson was unwilling to give up and online searches led her to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota.

Located in Roseville, the center is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing quality medical care and rehabilitation for all injured, sick and orphaned wild animals, among other efforts.

Unfortunately, the center does not provide rescue or transport of injured animals.

“As a last ditch effort, I called Three Rivers Parks District and they forwarded me to Wildlife Specialist Steven Hagg,” said Roberts Salveson, who described Hagg as “an angel” as he arranged for a team to help her rescue the swan and transport it to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota.

“The vets there valiantly fought for this beautiful bird’s life for 44 days until they determined the gunshot wound was too deep and infection had set in throughout the bird’s entire body cavity,” Roberts Salveson said.

“The vets believed it was no longer humane to keep trying different heroic measures when the swan’s body was shutting down. It was so hard for them as they had a lot invested in its care and were hoping for a better outcome but they made the tough decision to humanely euthanize the swan,” said Roberts Salveson, who expressed her appreciation to the staff at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota for its efforts.

“I am so saddened by this but know that the vets tried everything possible,” said Roberts Salveson, who said the bird had suffered “a senseless and careless gunshot wound at the hands of someone who deliberately shot it.”

“The worst of this story is that X-rays revealed that this same swan had been shot before and recovered,” she added. “The Wildlife Rehab Center established that it had been grounded the first time it was shot, most likely last fall, which meant that the three gunshot wounds it sustained in May when I found and rescued it on my property were inflicted from the shooter on the ground, not in the air.”

As noted by Roberts Salveson, it’s difficult to confuse a trumpeter swan with other waterfowl or large migratory birds, as trumpeter swans weigh approximately 30 pounds and can have up to a seven-foot wing span. In comparison, the familiar Canada geese average 25 to 31 inches long and weigh only 6 or 7 pounds.

“It’s like comparing a Volkswagen Beetle to a Hummer,” Roberts Salveson said. “Also, trumpeter swans are all white while snow geese, for example, have distinct jet black tips on their wings.”

In addition to her appreciation for trumpeter swans, the incident is disappointing to Roberts Salveson because this is not the first time a trumpeter swan has been illegally shot in the Waconia area. For example, a man faced a fine and restitution of $3,000 following his conviction for shooting and killing a trumpeter swan on Swan Lake, near Waconia, in October 2007. According to Roberts Salveson, this most recent trumpeter swan shooting in Waconia is being investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

According to the Minnesota DNR, trumpeter swans originally graced wetlands across a broad region of North America from Illinois northwest to Alaska. Throughout the 1700s and 1800s, swans were hunted for their meat, skins and feathers. At the same time, trumpeter swan habitat diminished as settlers moved across North America.

By the 1880s, trumpeter swans disappeared from Minnesota and by the 1930s, only 69 trumpeter swans remained in the lower 48 states, living in the remote Red Rock Lakes area in southwestern Montana.

Thanks to the federal protection and restoration efforts, the population of trumpeter swans in the North American interior is on the rise but the swans remain listed as a threatened species in Minnesota.

To learn more about trumpeter swans, visit www.trumpeterswan


Contact Todd Moen at [email protected]