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Sioux Falls Trumpeter Swans | Dakota Life

This story was first reported by Tim Davison for Dakota Life.

Two trumpeter swans were spotted in Sioux Falls last week, marking one sign of success in a decades-long effort to restore the birds’ population.

The species is the largest swan in the world. K.C. Jensen is a wildlife biologist specializing in waterfowl. He said in the 1900s, overhunting nearly drove the swans to extinction.

“Their skins were actually very valuable, and their wing feathers in particular were highly sought after for quill pens,” Jensen said.

By the 1930s, there were fewer than one hundred swans remaining in North America.

In the 1960s, young trumpeter swans from Yellowstone National Park were transferred to LaCreek National Wildlife Refuge in southwestern South Dakota. Breeding populations were also established in Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan.

Now, there are over 50,000 trumpeter swans in North America. As a result, Jensen noted sightings in eastern South Dakota have become “less rare in recent years.”

“We’re starting to see bleed over from populations that have been reintroduced into Minnesota and Iowa,” he said.

The swans are sensitive to human disturbances and lead poisoning. Jensen characterizes them as “charismatic.”

“They're impressive birds to watch,” he said. “When you watch them fly, it looks so effortless.”

Tim Davison joined the SDPB team in 2022 as an Emerging Content Producer. Originally from Nebraska, Tim has held many different positions over his career, including work on film and media projects focused on natural history and wildlife conservation. Most recently, he worked on Planet California, which aired in the summer of 2022 on PBS. An outdoorsman and oil painter, Tim describes himself as a lover of strong coffee, witty puns, and well-crafted storytelling. He and his wife, Stephanie Arne of Pierre, currently live with their dogs, cats, and innumerable plants in Sioux Falls.