Hazing saves some swans from lead - By Trudy Beyak - Abbotsford News [February 2, 2008]
There has been no solution to the death of swans on Judson Lake, but it appears that hazing – scaring the birds away from the lake, appears to have cut the annual die-off in half.
A majestic trumpeter swan honks forlornly, a sad wailing growing quieter with each laboured breath as it suffers the slow agony of lead poisoning.
About 2,100 trumpeter swans have died in the Fraser Valley and Whatcom County since 1999, after swallowing lead shots while foraging for grain or corn.
It can take approximately three to six weeks after ingestion for the bird to die. About 15 per cent of the trumpeter swan population – or 200 swans on average – have been dying every year from 2001 to 2006 from ingesting lead shot, said Barry Smith, the manager of ecosystem conservation for the Pacific Wildlife Research Centre.
Since the hazing of Judson Lake, however, the deaths dropped to 100 last year. It seems likely the number of swans killed by lead poisoning this winter may be lower than last winter, Smith said. Hazing is a technique used to scare the birds away from the lake.
As of the most recent statistics, 82 swans had died this winter season, but the final official number won’t be tallied until the birds start migrating back to Alaska around March. The deaths continue to challenge scientists.
Smith cautioned that Judson Lake is not the only source of lead shot killing the birds. It is clear that lead shot is found in the wider community, he said.
Who is responsible for the massive die-offs of the largest waterfowl in North America?
Martha Jordan, director of the Trumpeter Swan Society, was blunt: “Hunters who shoot guns loaded with lead shot, and leave the lead shot scattered all over our environment - that’s who,” Jordan said.
She has cradled enough dying swans in her arms to be angry and frustrated with hunters who insist of using toxic lead bullets.
Scientists on both sides of the border are trying to identify where the swans are ingesting the lead shot.
Jordan said it’s a no-brainer. Lead shot needs to be banned - period, she said. Whether target practicing, shooting crows, starlings, or upland game birds such as pheasants and quail, hunters should not be using toxic lead shot because of the obvious health hazards to wildlife and humans, Jordan said.
The use of lead shot for waterfowl hunting has been banned in Whatcom County, Washington since 1989 and the Fraser Valley since 1992. However, it continues to be permitted for use by hunters in upland hunting areas and unregulated shooting on private lands.
Scientists believe lead shot is distributed widely over farmer fields and water bodies where hunting and target shooting are taking place, Jordan said.
Meanwhile, hunters say it is their right to continue shooting with lead shot and bullets.
David Oliver, president of the Ridgedale Rod and Gun Club (not the federal Liberal candidate), said there is no proof that the lead shot being ingested today by the trumpeter swans were used by present-day hunters, or if it is old shot simply being ploughed to the top of fields by farmers.
He admitted scientists have proven beyond a shadow of doubt that lead shot is killing the trumpeters – be it old or new shot. But, there are a lot of things society allows for use that are detrimental to the environment, he said.
Lead shot is cheaper to buy and it is more effective at killing game than steel shot, Oliver explained.
“I don’t think banning lead shot is the answer.”
The trumpeters are not foraging around the Ridgedale Rod and Gun Club, therefore the target shooting occurring at the club’s site is not responsible for the deaths, Oliver said.
The Ridgedale club, representing about 500 hunters, does not have a lead shot retrieval program, but there is no need to do so, Oliver said. No lead was detected in the water, for example, when a new well was dug at the site four years ago.
John Richardson is a member and former president of the Abbotsford Fish and Game Club, operating on Lakemont Road in East Abbotsford at the base of Sumas Mountain.
In his opinion, lead shot should be banned, even though that may not be a popular opinion with most hunters.
He said he is saddened by the deaths of the trumpeter swans.
Richardson said lead shot has been accumulating in the environment for the past 50-100 years in prime duck hunting areas such as Judson Lake, and he believes it would be wise to clean up the lake as soon as possible.
Although lead shot has been banned for use in waterfowl hunting, it is still allowed for upland birds, explained Ed Fast, Abbotsford (Conservative) MP. He questioned how carefully hunters are following the lead shot regulations and how well the ban is being enforced.
“Lead shot is still the cheapest shot you can buy,” Fast noted.
The MP said the swan die-off in the Fraser Valley is a serious problem, and he is discussing various ways to try to solve this issue with the federal environment minister.
Jordan is adamant there needs to be a total ban on all lead shot.
“When are the U.S. and Canadian governments going to completely ban this environmental toxin?” she asked.
Environment Canada – Canadian Wildlife Service, B.C. Ministry of the Environment, and Ducks Unlimited Canada have agreed to consider the ecological remediation of the lake.
The international shallow lake is located at the south end of Clearbrook Road in Abbotsford.
But, two-thirds of the lake is on the U.S. side of the border and Smith noted that the heaviest concentrations of lead in the lake are actually on the American side, according to the results of core sampling.
A working group comprised of the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS), the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Trumpeter Swan Society, the University of Washington and various other organizations have been working together since 2001 to try to locate the source(s) of lead shot and end the swan mortalities.
Ban lead shot across Canada - By Trudy Beyak - Abbotsford News [October 31, 2006]
The alarming Trumpeter swan deaths in Abbotsford are triggering renewed public calls to ban lead shot across Canada. And, the ban is gaining political support. "It grieves me to see swans dying in our backyard," said Abbotsford (Conservative) MP Ed Fast. The MP said he supports the goal of Judson Lake resident Kevin Sinclair to ask the government to ban lead shot across the country.
Sinclair recently filed an official petition with the federal government to eliminate lead shot and lead fishing weights under the authority of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The aim is to request a national prohibition on the import, manufacture and sale of lead hunting shot and lead fishing weights, Sinclair said. The Abbotsford resident's petition is moving through government channels under the auspices of the federal Auditor General.
Naturalists and scientists, alike, admire the Trumpeter as a magnificent, gracious bird that communicates with a low-pitched "ko-hoh" bugle and mates for life. The deaths are alarming, Sinclair said. "No one can pick up the dead body of a beautiful Trumpeter swan and not be hugely affected, emotionally," said Kevin Sinclair.
No one knows the heart-break more than he does. Sinclair's been picking up dead swans for the past five years along Judson Lake and he's sick of it. He's sick of having his children see the spectacle of a swan dying. He's sick of the inaction of the government to ban lead shot, which is causing the largest waterfowl in North America to die in record numbers locally. Sinclair has found as many as 18 dead Trumpeters in one day, he said. "They lay there dying with their necks out - these defenseless, humungous beautiful birds." Sinclair is questioning the possibility that lead may be getting into our food chain. Swans can't be the only wildlife dying out there from lead poisoning, Sinclair warns.
Researchers are finding high levels of lead shot in soil core sampling on farmer fields on Sumas Prairie, Whatcom County and on the U.S. side of Judson Lake, said Doug Zimmer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Sumas Prairie, at one time, was a shallow lake and a hunters' paradise with waterfowl teeming on Sumas Lake before it was drained and the land was diked in the mid-20s to create what we now know as fertile farmland. All that lead is still buried in the fields, and now that it's farmland, the farmers keep ploughing up the soil and bringing the lead up to the surface, Zimmer explained. "Lead unfortunately, persists a long time in the environment." Hunters also continue to kill waterfowl, ducks and geese on Sumas Prairie. Zimmer said swans ingest lead shot to use as grit for processing their food.
Sinclair said the swan deaths are an environmental wake-up call to everyone. "Lead is one of the nastiest substances on the planet and it contaminates the soil. Plant crops absorb it, cattle eat the plant crops and so it eventually goes up the food chain," Sinclair said. "It's a serious health issue for humans, because lead takes centuries to break down. You've got to ask yourself how the lead contamination is affecting us, and how it will affect our children and their children?"
Fast said he is concerned about the issue. "It's well-known that lead is highly toxic and there is conclusive evidence that the Trumpeter swans are dying from lead poisoning," Fast said. Before lead shot is banned, Fast said there will be extensive consultation with the outdoor industry, but human and environmental health need to take priority. "In the long run, lead shot will need to be banned," he said.
Hunters are still allowed to use lead shot for upland birds in Canada, but not for waterfowl. Fast said he's concerned about enforcement and the fact that an estimated 30 per cent of hunters continue to use lead shot illegally to hunt for waterfowl. The MP said there are numerous good alternatives to lead shot, although it is more expensive. If lead shot is banned, Fast said the price of the alternative shots will come down because of the increase in public demand.
Mike Smith, researcher with the University of Washington said he doesn't understand why the governments on both sides of the border are being so slow to ban lead, "I don't know why we're still using lead, because it affects everybody. "All lead ammunition is toxic to wildlife and the environment. Lead deposited on land can leach into the soil and water. Also, lead deposited directly into waterways from hunting or trap shooting may contaminate soils downstream as erosion occurs from water flows.
The Canadian Minister of the Environment is compelled to explain to Sinclair what is being done to develop regulations to ban lead, as proposed by the former minister in 2004.
Judson Lake swans slated for hazing - By Taylor Phifer whatcomindy.com [October 5-12, 2006]
Will airboat, noisemakers and lights keep birds from landing?
JUDSON LAKE - Since the year 2000, hundreds of migrating swans have died around Judson Lake from ingesting lead shot. To avoid any more deaths, officials have decided to launch a hazing project aimed at scaring the birds away from their winter roost.
“We decided as a group that our scientific and methodical approach was narrowing the field but not as fast as we wanted,” spokesperson for U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Doug Zimmer said. “We thought we’d try an experiment to haze the birds off the lake for a year. It will be a question of, does this hazing give us a drop in mortality? If so, what do we do next? If it does not, it raises the question how much of a danger is Judson Lake?”
So what comprises hazing? Students from the University of Washington, who are studying the lake, will drive an air boat around the water with noise makers and lights to scare the birds away. According to Fish and Wildlife, the swans feed throughout the night, so the hazing project will run 24 hours a day for several months.
“The swans are an indicator that there is a lot of lead out there we don’t know about,” Zimmer said. “Swans are big and they’re what we find, but there are probably other animals we are losing that we may not know about.”
Officials have contacted the landowners around the lake to get their support for the project. The lake, which straddles the U.S.-Canadian border, is currently losing 300 to 400 swans a year. It has been a popular sporting area for bird hunters who used lead ammunition. Lead shot was outlawed in the 1980s but remained legal in Canada until as recently as 1999.
The spent shot mixes into the soil around the lake where the birds feed. Because they have no teeth, swans use grit and small pebbles to help with digestion. A small piece of lead shot, to a swan, would seem like a perfect digestive tool. However, once the shot enters the bird’s system the lead shuts down the liver and kidneys and condemns the bird to a slow death, Zimmer said.
“One of the key ideas of conservation is to protect all the parts of an ecosystem,” he said. “The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to keep all the parts. You don’t know the effects until you lose a part of the ecosystem. We don’t know all the roles a swan plays in the environment. U.S. and Canadian law says we’re not going to allow a species to go extinct. We want to manage it so they don’t need our help to survive. An intact ecosystem is better for humans and other species.”
If keeping the swans off the lake leads to a drop in deaths, officials will then take a hard look at Judson Lake as a contaminated area. Fixing lead contamination is tricky. It doesn’t go away naturally. Officials could raise the water level of the lake to create a bigger buffer between lead on the bottom and creatures on top or they could dredge and cap the bottom of the lake to prevent further ingestion of the shot, Zimmer said.
The swans will start arriving late this month and stay until late February. The hazing experiment will start when the birds arrive and last until they leave. The total project is estimated to cost about $101,000 a month or just over $401,000 for the season.
“We’ve put some of the best minds available on it to get an answer,” Zimmer said. “We’re closer than we were, but we still don’t have an answer. Judson Lake is an experiment." [to top]
BC groups to help Judson Lake -
No response yet from US authorities - By Sara I. Geballe - Whatcom Independant [January 13, 2006]
SUMAS - The plight of Judson Lake and the many trumpeter swans that die there each year appears to finally be capturing the attention of the authorities – at least on the Canadian side. Various north of the border agencies –including the provincial Ministry of Environment and the British Columbia Wildlife Federation (BCWF) – are calling for the immediate cleanup of the lake.
According to Al Martin, director of the Fish and Wildlife Branch of the BC Ministry of Environment, “Judson Lake is one of a few lakes in the area that is an important wildlife habitat. It’s an important stopover area for migrating birds.” But it is also a very environmentally compromised lake because, as he explained, “Judson Lake is now in the very late stages of ecological succession. It could very easily cease to be a water body.”
Martin’s concerns go far beyond lead levels in the lake that could be killing swans. He and others are also troubled that the water level of Judson Lake keeps steadily dropping, that non-native plant and animal species have been invading and taking over the lake, and “dramatic changes in land use patterns are occuring” in the surrounding area. His goal, Martin explained, is to restore Judson Lake “to a fully functioning lake and, in addition, it would be a side benefit if it helped the swans.”
Tony Toth, executive director of the BCWF, put it this way: “The whole mess needs to be cleaned up, not just one aspect of it.” He added, “Judson Lake is still reclaimable. Why would you let it go down the tubes?” “The good thing is that we have an opportunity to turn this degraded ecosystem into a bi-national clean-up effort and an international reclamation demonstration project,” Toth pointed out.
As for Kevin Sinclair, the local previously covered, who has been begging the authorities for years to help save the swans dying at Judson Lake (www.savetheswans.ca) - even he is happy. “I welcome their (the agencies) expertise and guidance with open arms! This wetland is a seriously degraded ecosystem that desperately needs help,” Sinclair said. “The BCWF and the provincial Ministry of Environment are saying there are problems with the entire ecosystem and many compelling reasons for restoring the ecological integrity of Judson, the lead issue being just one of them.” Sinclair says he has no problem at all with that assessment. Sinclair readily agrees that a
variety of forces have been degrading the overall ecology of Judson Lake, not just lead. “Receding water levels over the years have wiped out once abundant native fish species, and now facilitates the swift spread of nasty, noxious weeds like purple loosestrife.” As a poignant example, he described some areas of the lake are so thick
with weeds that, “I have to fight to push my canoe through them to pick up dead swans.” (By the way, so far this winter Sinclair has found 30 dead swans at Judson Lake.)
The sticking point with the Judson Lake clean-up, however, may be getting equal support south of the border. Judson Lake straddles the US-Canadian border with about two-thirds of it lying on the American side and one-third on the Canadian side. According to Martin, “Stewardship of these types of resources is a collective responsibility.” While he sees the very next step as getting all the Canadian agencies on the same page, ultimately Martin said, “Authorities on both sides need to be coordinated in our efforts in space and time.” Both sides have to agree as to possible treatments to clean up the lake. Experts will be needed who “know regulatory issues on both sides of the border,” he added.
While the Canadian groups seem to be getting mobilized and planning meetings on how best to attack the long-term clean-up of Judson Lake, it is not clear the American agencies are doing the same. Asked whether their American counterparts, such as the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife or the US Fish &
Wildlife Service were on board, Martin replied, “I would say I haven’t got a clear sense of that at the present time.” BCWF’s Toth echoes the sentiment, “so far there has been no response from the American side.”
How to get lead out in Judson Lake clean up - Wildlife Federation Director has a plan, MARK HUME, writes - Globe & Mail [Monday, January 9, 2006]
VANCOUVER -- It's not every day you get a chance to create a new lake in an urban landscape, but Tony Toth sees that opportunity arising in the controversy surrounding a swan die-off in the Fraser Valley.
He looks at Judson Lake, a shallow body of water, choked by invasive species. It nearly dries up each summer and in the winter turns into a "death trap" for trumpeter swans because of lead shot scattered on the bottom. What he sees is not just an environmental mess, but the potential for a thriving green space, a patch of wildness on Vancouver's doorstep.
This troubled body of water, he says, could be a place where urban youngsters go to learn the art of angling.
It could be a place where bird watchers go in the spring to see nesting waterfowl and in the winter to witness the miraculous arrival of the trumpeter swans. Spectacular birds with graceful, long necks and enormous wing spans, they swoop down on the Fraser Valley each December to feed in farm fields before flocking to Judson Lake to roost.
Over the decades, the once vibrant lake has suffered from a number of abuses. It has become invaded by exotic plants, and native trout were driven out by introduced perch, bass and other species.
Even the foreign interlopers have had a tough time surviving some summers when water levels dropped dramatically.
Despite these problems, Mr. Toth, executive director of the B.C. Wildlife Federation, sees enormous opportunity.
"What a perfect place to demonstrate a full-bore reclamation project," he said. "We could turn this lake into something wonderful.
"Look at the crowds in Stanley Park. People are going there because it's a beautiful, natural setting in a crowded urban setting. Look at the Reifel Sanctuary [the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Delta, on Westham Island]. School groups flock there to see the waterfowl. Judson Lake could be the same kind of attraction."
Judson Lake straddles the Canada-U.S. border near Abbotsford. Its central location in the Fraser Valley, just south of the Trans-Canada Highway, makes it easily accessible. But before crowds of birdwatchers and families of anglers start coming there, a lot of work has to be done.
Mr. Toth said the first problem to overcome is the squabbling that has gone on for years over the trumpeter swan issue. Starting in 1999, swans began to die in significant numbers in the Fraser Valley, which prompted several research projects by the Canadian Wildlife Service. Lead hunting shot, now widely banned, was soon identified as the prime suspect in the deaths. The birds pick up lead pellets when they browse and die from lead poisoning. But pinpointing exactly where the birds get that shot has been difficult and investigators continue to look for answers. That has prompted a lot of bickering over who is to blame for the lead-shot problem, as well as for the lack of action on a remedy. Judson Lake has emerged as a focal point for the problem because that's where most of the dead swans have been found.
For several years, Kevin Sinclair, who owns 44 hectares of raspberry fields on the lake, has been campaigning for a government program to remove the lead from Judson Lake.
But Mr. Toth said the problem is far more complex than that. If Judson Lake is to be restored, he said, a spectrum of issues must be addressed.
What is causing the water table to fluctuate so dramatically? Judson Lake didn't always dry up in the summer. How badly polluted is the muck on the lake bottom and what's the best way to deal with that problem? What can be done about the invasive, exotic plant and animal species?
"We've got to get the focus off icons here. It's not just about the swans," Mr. Toth said. "Instead of focusing on the emotional argument over swans, we have to look at this in the long term, and ask what is the best way to go about making this ecosystem whole again?"
Mr. Toth, whose organization has 30,000 members in 125 clubs in the province, is calling for "an international reclamation project" that was see the governments of Canada, the United States, B.C. and Washington State work together to clean up Judson Lake.
The B.C. Wildlife Federation, a group that is made up largely of hunters and anglers, is offering to help.
"For starters we need to line up some philanthropic organizations on both sides of the border to help fund this," Mr. Toth said.
Ducks Unlimited, a conservation organization that was founded by hunters, is one of the groups he plans to approach. Indeed, the organization's Canadian branch has already expressed interest. Given that the lead-shot poisoning of swans is the issue that brought the plight of Judson Lake to the forefront, many think it would be fitting to see hunting organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and the B.C. Wildlife Federation team up to restore the lake.
With support from government, Judson Lake could be turned into a healthy ecosystem once again. If it is, not only will the swans be saved, but so will a lot of other things -- and the Fraser Valley might one day have, in the midst of a rapidly growing area, a green space to rival the George C. Reifel Bird Sanctuary.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Monday, January 9, 2006.
More swan deaths expected -- No action taken by US or Canada to prevent annual kill - By Sara I. Geballe - Whatcom Independant [Issue 100 - October 21-27, 2005]
JUDSON LAKE - “It’s a little
despairing. It makes me mad at the
US and Canadian Wildlife Services,” lamented Kevin Sinclair
while steeling himself to look on helplessly, yet again, as hundreds
of trumpeter swans die of lead poisoning
in his backyard this coming
fall and winter.
Apparently, no state, provincial,
or federal agency – in either
Canada or the United States – will
be doing anything to prevent the
upcoming seventh annual massive
swan die-off, he added ruefully.
But one non-profit organization,
The Trumpeter Swan Society
(TTSS), is actively seeking
Whatcom County volunteers now
to help monitor this year’s migration.
In the August 12 issue, the
Whatcom Independent reported on
trumpeter swans dying of lead poisoning
and noted that many more
birds die each year in Whatcom
County as compared to Skagit,
even though four times as many
swans winter in Skagit County.
According to Sinclair, who is not
a scientist but has been watching
the swans die on his property for
years, the explanation for the staggering
difference in swan mortality
between Whatcom and Skagit
Counties can be summed up in two
words: Judson Lake. Sinclair is
convinced Judson Lake, located
along the US-Canadian border, represents
the worst source of lead
poisoning in the region due to historically
very heavy levels of hunting. “This place is a death trap,” he maintained.
Judson Lake is especially lethal
for swans, Sinclair argued, because
each summer the lake dries up leaving
a hard, matted surface upon
which spent hunting shot just lies
there exposed. So in late fall when
the hungry swans start arriving
from their long Alaskan migration,
they quickly begin seeking grit, and
the exposed lead pellets are readily
accessible. Scientists have determined
that only one or two ingested
lead pellets are enough to kill a
And to make matters worse,
Sinclair added, Judson Lake straddles
the US-Canadian border with
about two-thirds of the lake in the
US and one-third in Canada. That
location, he suggested, makes it
easier for both sides to pass the
buck. Any environmental and
remediation efforts would require
complicated political and legal
agreements between the two countries. “This lake is dynamite, and
they know it,” he added. But it also may be the most difficult politically
to clean up.
“Come November,” Sinclair predicts, “the swans will be here again
and they’ll start dying a few weeks
later. So we’ll just see the same
cycle continue on” — unless more
people get involved.
TTSS’s Martha Jordan strongly
agrees. “This year we really need
people in the community to volunteer.
We all want to solve the problem.”
Trumpeter Swan Deaths Continue to Alarm - by Trudy Beyek - The Abbotsford News [2005.04.26]
An international wildlife tragedy continues to unfold in the Fraser Valley and Whatcom County.
Researchers report that 286 trumpeter swans died of lead poisoning in the area.
And wildlife scientists, after studying the die-offs since 1999, continue to be puzzled about where these birds are ingesting large amounts of poisonous lead shots.
Dr. Robert Elner, acting manager of the Canadian Wildlife Service Pacific Wildlife Research Centre said Thursday the swan mortalities are alarming.
"This is a very serious problem," Elner said.
Of this season's mortalities, 66 Trumpeters died in the Fraser Valley, while 220 birds succumbed to an agonizing death in Whatcom County.
"It's definitely lead shot that they are ingesting, but the question is: Where are they ingesting it?" Elner said, noting that lead pellets need to be eradicated from the local environment. The B.C. government has partially banned lead shot since 1995, but the pellets are found in high concentrations in some Fraser Valley areas where hunters have used the shot for decades and it continues to be sold at local hunting shops.
Elner explained that the provincial government banned hunters from using lead shot for shooting waterfowl, geese and ducks - but still allows the sale of lead shot for hunting game birds such as pheasants and quail.
The same is true in Washington state.
Ingesting just one or two lead pellets can kill a swan of lead poisoning within three to six weeks and it is also lethal for eagles and other raptors which feed on the dead swans.
Henk Saaltenk, a member of the Central Valley Naturalists, said the trumpeter swans are magnificent birds.
"It is very sad to see them get sick and die," he said.
Each year, the trumpeters, which are the largest bird in all of North America, migrate south from Alaska to spend the fall and winter season in the Fraser Valley, Delta, Vancouver Island in Canada and the Skagit Valley and Whatcom County in the U.S.
Kevin Sinclair, who owns property on the Canadian side of Judson Lake, said his family has witnessed many swans dying since 1999 and it is agonizing to watch.
He's sick and tired of the inaction by wildlife experts on both sides of the border.
"The deaths are no mystery," he said, noting that the birds forage along the bottom of shallow Judson Lake, which is contaminated by lead shot.
"The birds are dying because hunters refuse to quit using lead shots," Sinclair said, noting that illegal hunting is taking place especially on the U.S. side of Judson Lake.
"The bottom line is non-compliance by hunters using lead shot, but the U.S. wildlife officials are afraid to push the issue because of the National Rifleman's Association and their strong lobby group," Sinclair said.
He is pressing Environment Canada to completely ban the manufacture, sale and importation of lead shot into Canada.
"If you can take the lead out of paint and gasoline, surely we can take the lead out of the ammunition that's being spread by hunters all over our environment."
Secondly, Sinclair said Judson Lake, which straddles the international border, must be dredged and cleaned up.
Elner, however, said scientists have ruled out Judson Lake as a source, because the birds only roost at the site and don't feed there.
Preliminary data indicates the major source of the lead is being ingested on the agriculture fields in Abbotsford, not at roosting sites such as Judson Lake.
Some lead has been found in Judson Lake, but it is not a significant source, according to the researchers.
About 250,000 waterfowl are estimated to die from lead shot poisoning annually in Canada. Several million more suffer sublethal lead poisoning.
What Is the Truth About Swan Deaths on the U.S./Canada Border? - Kevin Sinclair - Whatcom Watch [2004.04] [to top]
Have you ever wondered what’s really going on with all the mysterious trumpeter swan mortalities in our area that continue unabated year after year? Did you know that more than 1,100 of these magnificent creatures have suffered and died from acute lead poisoning over the past five years? How is it that despite countless taxpayer dollars being spent on monitoring studies that the end result always seems to come out the same?
Read the full article on whatcomwatch.org...
For Following Their Instincts
- by Susan McClelland- Macleans
Sinclair looked forward to an
idyllic life when she moved in
2000 to a farm on Judson Lake,
straddling the Canada/U.S. border
at Abbotsford, B.C., but it hasn't
turned out that way. Each year,
many of the trumpeter swans that
spend the winter on the lake die
from lead poisoning after ingesting
shotgun pellets from the bottom
of the lake, left from decades
of duck hunting. "My husband
and I sometimes kill the dying
swans to end their misery,"
says Sinclair. "This is not
what I want my four- and six-year-old
boys to see."
hunted at the turn of the past
century for its thick down, the
trumpeter swan was designated
a protected species in 1916. Conservation
efforts have bolstered the population
to about 16,000 from an all-time
low of 77 in 1933. But the birds
are attracted to the lethal pellets
that they mistake for small stones
or grit, which waterfowl eat to
aid their digestion. With thousands
of birds fatally poisoned in Canada
each year, the federal government
restricted the use of lead shot
in 1999. But the threat remains,
in the millions of pellets lining
lake bottoms across the country.
Swans Die of Lead Poisoning -
Unknown - clipping from local
200 swans almost twice
as many as last year have
been found dead of lead-shot poisoning,
in the Sumas Prairie area of Abbotsford
and in neighboring Whatcom County,
this winter out of a shared population
of 2,000 to 5,000.
concerned about this over time.
Said Mike Davidson, district biologist
with the Washington state department
of fish and wildlife. This
is two years in a row now. If
we have a third, fourth and fifth
year, Im not so sure this
population can handle that.
officials on both sides of the
border are working together to
find the source of the lead
thought to be residual from a
lead-shot ban on waterfowl hunting
imposed in Washington in the mid-
1980s and in BC in 1995.
definitely have to do something
about it, said Laurie Wilson,
a biologist with the federal Canadian
Wildlife Service in Delta. We
have to stop it.
far this year, 39 swans have been
found dead on the BC side of the
border, and 160 in Whatcom County.
Those figures do not necessarily
reflect a greater problem in Washington,
only that more swans choose to
roost on the U.S. side at night
and are being found dead there
the next day.
theory blames this years
deaths on the unusually dry weather.
With water levels low in ponds
and sloughs, the long necked swans
are perhaps accessing old lead-shot
in the sediments as grit for digestion
die-off also occurred in 1992,
when lead poisoning killed 32
swans at Judson Lake, a roost
site in south Abbotsford straddling
the border and where studies have
shown an average density of 95
pellets per cubic meter of bottom
the Canadian side, biologists
are planning to fit several swans
with radio transmitters next year
to monitor their movements and
determine which of the hundreds
of foraging areas are causing
will also analyze the type and
size of shot found in the swans
gizzards and work with non-profit
groups to ensure swan carcasses
are removed quickly to prevent
predators such as bald eagles
or dogs from getting sick. Researchers
from both sides of the border
will also meet in the spring to
discuss the problem.
Willms is a semi-retired farmer
who owns 47 hectares, 10 of which
encompasses the Canadian portion
of Judson Lake. The other 32 hectares
of the lake are the property of
he continues to marvel at up to
400 swans flying in each night
to roost on Judson Lake, he is
distressed to see their slow,
painful death. Its
depressing, he said. They
get sick and lose the use of their
limbs. They crawl on the shoreline
to slowly die. The mate stays
right there until they expire.
suggested that hardpans in the
Abbotsford area might be part
of the problem by trapping the
lead shot and making it available
to swans in dry years. Swans have
not been dying of lead poisoning
in the Fraser delta near Ladner.
to over-hunting and habitat loss,
trumpeter swans came close to
extinction in the 1930s, when
there were only 77 breeding adults
in Canada and 50 in the US.
then, protection measures in North
America, including an end to hunting,
have increased their numbers to
at least 21,000, prompting their
removal from the endangered species
list. [to top]
dying at Judson Lake - by
Corinne Jackson - The Times
officials suspect the birds are
being poisoned by lead shot left
behind by hunters
of swans and an image comes to
mind of gentle, majestic and beautiful
snow-white birds, their necks
outstretched, tall and proud.
that's hardly the sight out at
Judson Lake these days as Canadian
Wildlife Service staff with Environment
Canada drag the birds from the
brush around the lake, dead.
know, they mate for life,"
states Anne Willms, who lives
with her husband, Walter, at the
edge of the lake at the south
end of Clearbrook Road.
watches as environment officials
stand over yet another dead swan
and describes how she has seen
birds dying as their partners
lay next to them.
know, how they put their head
into their wings?" She pauses.
"I tell you, it's such a
one will be up on the bank while
the partner swims around and around
in circles. I guess they don't
know what to do."
about 18 of the dead birds, mostly
trumpeters, were removed from
the area. And that's just on the
Canadian side. The lake straddles
the Canadian-American border.
to wildlife biologist Laurie Wilson,
a post-mortem will now be conducted.
However, her best guess is the
die-off is the resuld of lead
shot left behind from hunters.
have been periodic die-offs in
the past," Wilson pointed
1976 and 1994, 186 trumpeter swans
were found dead or sick in B.C.
Some 47 per cent were diagnosed
with acute lead poisoning with
the largest number of dead - 32
birds - found at Judson Lake in
1990, lead shot was banned for
waterfowl hunting in main wintering
areas of trumpeter swans, including
Judson Lake. For that reason,
researchers figured the main problem
was with old lead shot left behind.