Almost everyone in attendance had a camera or video camera in hand when the Iowa Department of Natural Resources released three massive, all-white trumpeter swans in the water at Summit Lake Wednesday afternoon.
The event brought a large crowd of about 75. The gravel parking lot at the Summit Lake boat ramp was full enough that people were forced to park on the shoulders along Highway 25.
Dave Hoffman, wildlife technician for the Iowa DNR (Clear Lake), spoke to the crowd for nearly 20 minutes about the trumpeter swans. Several students came up during Hoffman’s presentation and examined the birds wingspan, length of neck, its hidden ears and one student even gave a swan a high-five.
Hoffman told the large crowd trumpeter swans were once common in Iowa, but were gone from the state by the late 1880s. By early 1930s, only 69 trumpeter swans remained in the lower 48 states.
The three swans released in Creston were 11-month-old cygnet swans weighing approximately 22 pounds with necks measuring about 24 inches long.
There were two females and one male swan released. They are part of the DNR’s statewide trumpeter swan restoration effort.
“These swans will pretty much be hanging out in Creston for now,” Hoffman said, “because they are temporarily flightless until they moult and regain their feathers this summer into fall. They will leave the Creston area in December when the lakes freeze up, and the overall goal is that they will return in the spring and over time create a self-sustaining population in the Creston area.”
However, Hoffman does say the chance of the birds returning to Creston next spring is only about 25 percent, mostly because of their high mortality rate. The top two causes of mortality for swans are: 1) accidental or intentional gunfire from humans and 2) power lines.
Two of the three swans released in Creston Wednesday came from a zoo in Green Bay, Wis. The other was in captivity in north-central Iowa.
Earlier Wednesday, four trumpeter swans were released at the Mount Ayr Wildlife Area. Today, more swans will be released 10:30 a.m. at Viking Lake in Stanton and 2:30 p.m. at Anita Lake.
Hoffman said these releases are helping the trumpeter swan population as the DNR estimates there are about 250 trumpeter swans statewide.