People who encounter a white, four-foot-tall bird walking down a road near the shores of Lake Minnetonka and other state waterways are asked to give it the right-of-way.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says trumpeter swan families with newly hatched young will sometimes cross highways or rest on the shoulders of highways that border their nesting marshes. They are at risk of being hit by vehicles, so people are asked to be on the lookout for the swans.
Once nearly extinct, trumpeter swans are making a comeback in Minnesota. In the 1930s, there were only 69 birds in existence. Today, through the work of many agencies and organizations, and generous donations from Minnesota taxpayers to the Nongame Wildlife Checkoff Fund, there are nearly 5,500 trumpeter swans in Minnesota alone.
During June and July, however, the birds are particularly vulnerable. Adults temporarily lose their primary wing feathers in a process called molting, and the young, called cygnets, have not grown flight feathers. It may not be unusual to see a family of swans walking, quite simply, because they cannot fly. By September the swan families will be able to take to the air.
The trumpeter swan is easy to identify. The large, white, long-necked birds have black bills and feet, and necks that are nearly as long as their bodies. Adults stand four feet tall, can weigh 30 pounds and have a wingspan up to eight feet across. Cygnets are silvery gray and have pinkish and gray bills.
Watch for trumpeter swans, especially on roadways that go through marshes and swampy areas. Drivers who see trumpeter swans or other animals on the road are asked to slow down and when safety permits, drive around them. People should not try to assist or chase them, or to pick-up or hold cygnets, according to the DNR.
People who happen upon a trumpeter swan that is dead or obviously injured should contact a local DNR conservation officer or Lori Naumann at DNR, 651-259-5148. For more information on trumpeter swans, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/birds/trumpeterswan.html.