Trumpeter swan released after suspected lead poisoning

March 18, 2019
A trumpeter swan is returned to the wild after being treated for lead poisoning.

MOUNT VERNON — What could have been a sad story for one of Skagit County’s trumpeter swans took a happy turn this week.

On Jan. 17, Mount Vernon Animal Control Officer Emily Den Hartog was called to a residence on McLean Road after a snow goose was reported to be stuck in a picket fence, Mount Vernon police Lt. Chris Cammock said.

Upon her arrival, Den Hartog realized the animal was not a snow goose but a large trumpeter swan. It was entangled in the fence and the nearby bushes, Cammock said.

Because trumpeter swans are protected, Den Hartog called the state Department of Fish & Wildlife, which sent an officer to the scene.

The two officers were able to release the bird from the fence, but when they set it free to rejoin a nearby flock, the bird didn’t seem right, Cammock said.

“It was basically looking drunk,” Cammock said. “It was wobbly and stumbling.”

Clint Lucci, a Fish & Wildlife officer, realized the bird might be suffering from lead poisoning, a common affliction for birds that ingest buckshot.

To see if his suspicion was correct, Lucci attempted to re-catch the bird, which he was easily able to do, Cammock said.

The bird was taken to the Whatcom Humane Society’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, where it began treatment to cure it of lead poisoning, he said.

After several weeks of treatment, the swan was released into the wild Thursday, Cammock said. It now has a band on its neck in case it is found again.

A swan biologist with Fish & Wildlife and a wildlife technician from the Whatcom Humane Society were also on hand to see the bird off.