MAQUOKETA, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is phasing out a state program to restore trumpeter swans, calling the program a success after 18 years.
The program is being turned over to the private sector, agency spokesman Kevin Baskins said.
"It's been successful enough in establishing the swans," said Baskins, noting the DNR will continue to provide expertise and guidance, but the private sector will "be the backbone of the program."
Trumpeter swans were once common in Iowa but by the early 1930s just 69 trumpeter swans remained in the continental United States. The swans are the largest waterfowl in North America and can weigh up to 32 pounds with a wingspan of 8 feet.
The restoration program in Iowa began in 1993, with the first wild nest in 1998.
The Telegraph Herald in Dubuque said a pair of swans in Jackson County in northeast Iowa is partly responsible for the return of the majestic bird to the state's wetlands and waterways
Since 2008, the swans have raised healthy batches of babies every year on a manmade pond at the Hurstville Interpretive Center near Maquoketa. The swans, "Fred" and "Frederick," have produced 16 cygnets. The pair raised seven cygnets in 2010. Five have been removed to other sites and two remain with their parents, to be released in April.
Jackson County Conservation has protected and provided for the swans for six years.
"They come running when the see our truck," said Ann Burns, Jackson County Conservation naturalist.
In the past, workers with the DNR's restoration program took the cygnets from all captive nesting pairs in the fall and released them to other locations the next spring. Now, each breeding site will keep its own youngsters over the winter and will help the agency with relocation projects in the spring.
That means Burns is looking for more money to feed the swans. She said a Maquoketa family has purchased much of the food for the breeding swan pair and will continue to do so, but there will be a need to feed a whole family now for most of the year. She estimates it will cost about $50 to feed each swan for one winter.In 2010, 42 wild pairs of trumpeter swans were found nesting in Iowa. Experts estimate the state needs about 50 wild nests to ensure a self-sustaining population.