As Chair of the Friends of Elk Island Society, AITF’s Brian Eaton was invited to take part in the release of three trumpeter swan cygnets into Elk Island National Park on May 28, as part of the Trumpeter Swan Reintroduction Program.
Trumpeter swans are native to western North America and were widespread in the past; however, by the early 1900s, commercial hunting and habitat alteration had driven this species almost to extinction. By the 1930s, programs were initiated to save the swans from extinction. Surveys initiated in 1985 have seen a steady increase in swan numbers in Alberta, from less than 400 in 1985 to just over 2,800 in 2010. These animals are located in seven general areas, including the Beaver Hills. The next provincial survey will take place in the fall of 2015.
The swans released May 28 were offspring of semi-captive birds maintained by the City of Camrose and are the first to be released into the park in more than a decade, carrying on a process that was initiated in Elk Island in 1987. The swans are now established in the park and have spread beyond the park boundaries into the Beaver Hills moraine.
Within minutes of their release, the trio could be seen flying back and forth over the lake, exploring their new home—an uplifting experience for everyone present. See some of the highlights below!
The swans—the largest waterfowl in North America—were taken in kennels to the release site. Brian Eaton (R) assists with transport.
One of the cygnets prepares to stretch its wings.
Freedom! The happy birds were quick to explore their new home.