We did something really cool this morning. We were swan wranglers!
The Wyoming Wetlands Society is a nonprofit based here in Jackson. Their primary goal is to restore the population of Trumpeter Swans throughout the Rocky Mountains. Here in Jackson, they have a breeding program where pairs of adult swans raise cygnets (baby swans) each year for export to likely habitats around the Rockies.
Each year, the Society has a "roundup" to capture, band, test, and send out breeding-age swans. Instead of using horses to round up cows, this undertaking involves using kayakers to herd swans. Ruthie and I scammed an invitation to be volunteers in today's roundup and it was a fantastic experience.
Before you look at my photos, you've got to see this brand new video of a pair of swans here in Jackson Hole with three brand new cygnets:
So we showed up this morning at the "swan ponds" about a half-mile from our house. The idea is that a group of kayakers form a moving "wall" to try to herd the swans into a corner of the pond habitat where there's a fenced pen to corral the birds. Apparently this process works really well sometimes and not so well others. I guess swans are easier to herd than cats but quite a bit harder than cows.
So here's Ruthie in her kayak getting ready to start the swan drive:
The group heading toward the far end of the pond, swans in view:
The wranglers close in...
The noose tightens:
Resistance is futile. They're in the pen:
These are big birds:
Ruthie holds # K41 while it gets banded. This one is headed for eastern Oregon:
And a family of wild ones does a flyover:
And seem to say to themselves, "Yikes! We don't want any part of THAT operation. Run away! Run away!"...
In the 1930's, there were only 69 wild trumpeters left in the continental United States. Since then, habitat and breeding programs have raised the population to the point where the species is becoming re-established across much of its former range. The Jackson Hole breeding program is releasing around 60 swans per year into wild locations around the Rocky Mountains. The program has been very effective in helping restore swan populations and migration routes throughout the western United States.
We had a wonderful time.
Edited by Bob Peters - 6/10/11 at 3:02pm