Trumpeter swans are making a comeback in the Blackfoot watershed, with a little help from a joint program between the Blackfoot Challenge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Meriwether Lewis recorded the presence of a pair of trumpeter swans at the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clearwater Rivers in July of 1806. After the feather trade decimated swans throughout the continent, there were no records of resident swans in the Blackfoot until 2003, when a pair of trumpeters nested on a wetland east of Lincoln. Unfortunately, the female swan was killed by a collision with a powerline. The quick-thinking landowner rescued the eggs and they were hatched by a surrogate female. This nesting attempt inspired a restoration project, and starting in 2005 captive-reared trumpeter swans have been released in the Blackfoot every year. The population is steadily growing and nests have produced an increasing number of cygnets (baby swans) since 2011, with many of these young returning to the watershed to potentially raise families of their own. Over 200 schoolkids and members of the public attend the swan releases each year. Contact our Swan Restoration Coordinator.
Header photo: Elaine Caton; Inset photo: Larry Beckner, Great Falls Tribune