Hurt swan goes back into wild

By TAMARIA L. KULEMEKA
The Eagle-Gazette Staff
tkulemeka@nncogannett.com

Eagle-Gazette photos by Ken Ritchie


The midday sun reflects off of the feathers of a Trumpeter Swan as he shakes the water from his wings at a pond in Greenfield Township on Wednesday, February 15. The swan, an endangered species in Ohio, was released back into the wild after a month and a half of treatment for injuries that are believed to have been caused by a dog attack.

GREENFIELD TOWNSHIP - Libby Cavanaugh's eyes swelled with tears as she watched a trumpeter swan being released back into the wild Wednesday. Cavanaugh found the bird injured on the U.S. 33 bypass Jan. 1. Cavanaugh, her husband and friends rescued the bird and turned it in to the Ohio Wildlife Center, where workers nursed it back to health.


Lisa Fosco and Reed Thompson, of the Ohio Wildlife Center in Columbus, carry a Trumpeter Swan in a cage to the edge of a pond in Greenfield Township. According to Fosco, the Director of Animal Care at the Ohio Wildlife Center, the swan had been under treatment at the center since January 2 for treatment after it was found with over 49 puncture wounds and lacerations, from what is believed to have been a dog attack.

Wildlife officials released the bird into a pond in Greenfield Township, hoping it would be reunited with his mate.

"It was just an awesome experience to help what I consider to be a magnificent animal who relied totally on human intervention and compassion," Cavanaugh said.

The bird stayed at the Ohio Wildlife Center for seven weeks.

It was treated for 49 puncture wounds and deep lacerations, in addition to having to be manually fed twice a day through a stomach tube.

The Ohio Wildlife Center is a nonprofit organization and treats close to 5,000 animals native to Ohio each year.

It was the wildlife center's first time treating a trumpeter swan, said Lisa Fosco, director of animal care for the organization.

The center releases more than 50 percent of injured animals back into the wild.

"Unfortunately some animals are not fixable, so any animal we release we're very happy about," Fosco said.

There are about 125 trumpeter swans in Ohio, said Dan Huss, a wildlife biologist for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife.

All of the trumpeter swans are tracked by the department, including the one released Wednesday.

The birds wear green, plastic identification neck collars.


A Trumpeter Swan floats along the surface of a pond in Greenfield Township on Wednesday, February 15. The swan, an endangered species in Ohio, was released back into the wild after a month and a half of treatment for injuries that are believed to have been caused by a dog attack.

The bird released Wednesday hatched in 2002 near Pickerell Creek Wildlife area along Lake Erie. It mated with a bird last year at Cedar Point National Wildlife Refuge. Typically, the birds fly south during the winter, which is why the bird was found in Fairfield County.

The trumpeter swan is the largest species of swan in the world. Ohio, which has has three species of swans reintroduced the trumpeter swan to the state through an ODNR program in 1996.

"They were totally extirpated from this area, and that happened way back in the 1800s," Huss said. "The entire trumpeter swan population in the lower 48 states was down to 69 birds by 1932."


Lisa Fosco, Director of Animal Care at the Ohio Wildlife Center in Columbus, and Daniel Huss, Wildlife Management Supervisor for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, release a Trumpeter Swan from a cage at the edge of a pond in Greenfield Township. Huss matched the tag around the neck of a swan to records showing that it had been hatched near the Pickerel Creek wildlife area in northern Ohio in 2002.

The birds were hunted by American Indians and early French travelers and explorers for meat and their feathers, Huss said.

The reintroduction program released 154 birds between 1996 and 2003.

The program's goal was to have 15 nesting pairs by this year.

"Last year, we had 18 nesting pairs, so we met our goal," he said.

Cavanaugh found the injured trumpeter swan after leaving church Jan. 1. She was driving along the bypass when she saw something white move. She knew she had to turn back.


Lisa Fosco, Director of Animal Care at the Ohio Wildlife Center in Columbus, takes a final look at the Trumpeter Swan, which she released, at a pond in Greenfield Township on Wednesday, February 15. The swan had been badly injured in what is believed to have been a dog attack, and sustained extensive damage to its back and hindquarters. The staff at the Ohio Wildlife Center spent seven weeks nursing the swan back to health and decided he could be released now that his feathers have grown back.

Earlier that day, Cavanaugh had found a white feather in the aisle at church. She picked up the feather and placed it in her Bible. She believes finding that feather was a sign.

"I felt it was a God thing - that I was supposed to stop and help this beautiful animal," she said. "I was just thrilled to be able to help the animal and very grateful for the Wildlife Center, because although we rescued it, we couldn't have been able to treat it."

Originally published February 16, 2006, Lancaster Eagle-Gazette


A Trumpeter Swan slowly makes his way back into a pond in Greenfield Township on Wednesday, February 15. Libby Cavanaugh of Lancaster found the swan along a roadside on New Year’s Day. The bird had extensive damage to its back and hindquarters from what appeared to have been a dog attack. Cavanaugh took the swan to the Ohio Wildlife Center in Columbus for treatment. While at the center, the swan's many puncture wounds, cuts scratches and infection were tended to and after seven weeks, the swan was reintroduced to its natural habitat.