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October 2, 2012

MADISON - With migratory songbirds, trumpeter swans and as of late last week, whooping cranes, flying through Wisconsin skies en route to their winter homes, waterfowl hunters are reminded to carefully identify all birds before shooting, state endangered resources and enforcement officials say.

"Hunters have done a great job in learning the differences between swans and geese and whooping cranes," says Sumner Matteson, Department of Natural Resources avian ecologist. "Unintentional shootings of trumpeter swans are still an issue, however, so we urge hunters to continue to be vigilant in identifying their game."

In 2011, two trumpeter swans were shot; one died and the other recovered at a rehabilitation center in Minnesota and was released, Matteson says.

Successful efforts to restore trumpeter swans in Wisconsin removed them from the state endangered species list in 2009 and have helped boost the number of nesting pairs to about 200 in 23 counties, according to preliminary results from 2012 surveys. The birds are still protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which makes it illegal to kill them.

Whooping cranes, which are protected under the state and endangered federal species laws and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, are found mostly in central Wisconsin as the result of an ongoing reintroduction project. Whooping crane chicks reared at DNR's White River Marsh State Wildlife Area in Green Lake County took off Sept. 28 behind an Operation Migration (exit DNR) ultralight plane and are making their way out of Wisconsin and to their winter home at the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (exit DNR) near Tampa, Fla. Captive-raised chicks placed among wild cranes at Horicon Marsh are due to be released from their rearing pens later this month, hopefully to follow adult whooping cranes as they migrate to the Florida site.

Trumpeter swans, tundra swans and snow geese are white with a black bill and can look similar from a distance. The best way to distinguish the species is by their calls. Observers have described the trumpeter's call as resonant, deep, loud, and trumpet-like. The snow goose has a high-pitched, quavering call. More tips and photos to help identify swans are available on Identifying Swans [PDF].

The unintentional shooting of a protected swan can result in state fines and restitution costs exceeding $2,000. The state penalty for intentionally shooting a whooping crane is a fine not less than $2,000 nor more than $5,000 or imprisonment for not more than nine months or both. In addition, violators face a three year revocation of all hunting privileges. Federal penalties can be substantially higher. Additional federal penalties also would likely apply.

More information about trumpeter swans and whooping cranes is available on the DNR website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Sumner Matteson (608) 266-1571; Thomas Van Haren (608) 266-3244

Last Revised: Tuesday, October 02, 2012

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