Trumpeter swans originally graced wetlands across a broad region of North America from Illinois northwest to Alaska. Throughout the 17- 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.
Bringing back the trumpeter swan - A timeline
To prevent the trumpeter swan from going extinct, Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge was established.
Hennepin County Park Reserve District, (now Three Rivers Park District) obtained 40 swans from Red Rock Lakes to establish a breeding flock. Swans begin nesting in Minnesota for the first time in nearly 80 years.
The Trumpeter Swan Society forms to promote the restoration of trumpeter swans across their historical range.
DNR Nongame Wildlife Program joins the effort to accelerate the restoration of trumpeter swans in Minnesota.
Nongame Wildlife Program acquires eggs from Red Rock Lake and Lacreek National Wildlife Refuges, the Minnesota and Brookfield (Chicago) Zoos and private propagators.
Nongame Wildlife Program obtains a permit to gather eggs from Alaska's population of about 10,000 wild trumpeter swans; 50 eggs collected.
Nongame Wildlife Program collects eggs in both 1987 and 1988 from Alaska; incubates eggs and rears young at Minnesota's Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area.
Nongame Wildlife Program releases 21 two-year-old trumpeter swans in May near the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in Becker County. The spring release gives swans a chance to acclimate to and imprint on their surroundings before molting and taking their first flights in July.
Nongame Wildlife Program releases five trumpeter swans at Swan Lake in Nicollet County.
Nongame Wildlife Program releases 38 trumpeter swans in Becker, Itasca and St. Louis Counties.
The Minnesota DNR, Iowa DNR and North Heron Lake Game Producers Association begin a 10-year cooperative effort to restore trumpeter swans in southwestern Minnesota/northern Iowa. (Thus far, sixty-two swans have been released in southwestern Minnesota.)
Nongame Wildlife Program and Minnesota Zoo staff document first trumpeter swan nests in southeastern Minnesota since the 1880s on Lake Frances near Elysian and near French Lake in Rice County.
The Minnesota flock of trumpeter swans now consists of more than 2000 individuals.
Since the first trumpeter swan releases in 1987, the Nongame Wildlife Program has released more than 350 swans. Similar work to restore trumpeter swans in South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Ontario has brought North America's interior population to 4500 in 2004.
Thanks to the work of many agencies and organizations and generous donations from Minnesota taxpayers to the Nongame Wildlife Checkoff Fund, trumpeter swans are home again.