Continent-wide Conservation

Photographer unknown

The story of North America's Trumpeter Swan restoration is filled with partnerships, adventure, and educational leadership. In the 1930s, a small population of less than 100 Trumpeter Swans remained in the Yellowstone region. Trumpeters were thought to be extinct everywhere else. Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge was created in Montana to protect this small remnant. Later, small numbers of Trumpeters were also found in western Canada and in parts of Alaska.

Trumpeter Swans and Trumpeter eggs from these areas were used in early restoration programs at four western refuges in the late 1930s and 1940s and a refuge in South Dakota in the 1960s. Restorations by states and provinces started in the 1960s and 1970s. Several key Midwest state and province restoration programs began in the 1980s. Zoos, private breeders, decoy-rearing and "seeing what swans will do" all played a role in swan reintroductions in the early years of restoration.

Behind the scenes and also leading the way was TTSS. TTSS provided these restoration efforts the best scientific swan expertise and research, and a strong "swan network" of researchers, biologists, and managers to make the flight back to recovery easier and more effective. For example, TTSS's biennial conferences since 1969 have gathered and shared the latest research about swans to swan managers, biologists, agencies, and Flyways. You can find the most recent research on our Publications page.

This amazing story of the Trumpeter Swan beginning its return in North America is part of the larger inspirational story of how a species can return from extinction. The story is not finished. You can help write the next chapter.

In 2010, there were more than 46,000 Trumpeters. This is an incredible increase from the 3,700 swans counted in 1968, at the time of the first range-wide Trumpeter Swan survey count. However, Trumpeter Swans are still missing from nearly two thirds of their original range.

Because Trumpeters were gone from most of the North American continent for more than a century, they have the lowest genetic diversity of any waterfowl species that has been studied. We do not know if this lack of diversity will affect the long term success of vulnerable populations such as the nesting flocks in Greater Yellowstone, which have not thrived, but are managing to not significantly decline.

The major threats facing Trumpeter Swans across the continent are:

  • The impact of climate change on wetland and upland habitats used by Trumpeter Swans throughout the year.
  • Continuing mortality threats of lead poisoning and power line collisions.
  • Loss of quality winter habitat including wetlands and loss of farm lands where crop residues have been important winter food resources.
  • The potential conflicts between Trumpeter Swan recovery and Tundra Swan hunting.
  • A reduction in funding by agencies to address swan management and restoration issues, secure quality habitat, and to fund swan research.

TTSS is committed to addressing these challenges. TTSS relies on financial contributions from individuals and organizations to be able to continue this important work. There are many ways you can help.