Mt Pleasant News

Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 20, 2017

Keeping Watch - A Swan Song

By Steve Wilson | Feb 17, 2012
Courtesy of: Globe Gazette and Editor David Namanny  Gray yearlings yearning for Freedom -That's Romeo on the right - 4/20/2006

Henry County — On Saturday November 15th, 2008 at approximately 7:20 a.m. a young pair of trumpeter swans were cruising their way into the Cedar Bottoms Game Management Area in Muscatine County Iowa on the slow stately sweep of their great white wings. In just a matter of minutes both swans were dead.

Matt and Zach, hunting waterfowl in the Cedar Bottoms west and north of Muscatine watched as the young pair flew into range. Matt shot and missed while the deadly aim of Zachary Boots brought down the female (pen).  

The male (cob), shaken, confused and alone chose the fate of his bond over the freedom of his wings and banked against the beckoning refuge of the sky to circle back across Cedar Bottoms, searching and calling for his fallen mate. Two more hunters, Frye and LaRue, could not pass up their opportunity to add their fire to the morning sky and thus the young cob too was felled to join his mate in the embrace of death.  

A DNR Game Warden made the arrest and sent the remains of the swans to the Lake Darling office to be held in cold storage as evidence.

Following the court action arrangements were made to send the body of the young cob to the Henry County Conservation Board to be preserved, artistically mounted and displayed, as if in flight, in the Oakland Mills Nature Center.  I look forward to observing the mount at the spring opening.

In memory of the tragic story of the death of this young pair I will hence forth refer to them as Romeo and Juliet. Romeo wore the red identification collar of swans released by the Iowa DNR. Romeo broke his way out of the egg at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Illinois in the spring of 2005. Big dreams were born with this little cygnet. His was not to be a life of confinement in a zoo. He was to fly free and to join with other trumpeter swans who were being raised and released in Iowa and Minnesota to restore their kind. His destiny was to trumpet the message of conservation across the skies of eastern Iowa and for as long as it was given to him, He did his job well.  (to be continued)

Comments (2)
Posted by: Steve Wilson | Feb 18, 2012 07:57

"O Romeo, Romeo, where..."

Romeo was released on April the twentieth two thousand and six at the Brownsville Wildlife Area three miles north of New Haven in Mitchell County Iowa.  Being adorned with a highly visible red plastic neck collar, sporting in white the number - 7K3 - allowed folks from all along the eastern shores of Iowa to share in the excitement of following his travels.  In February 2007 he was sighted south of Burlington Iowa on the back waters of the Mississippi River.  In May of the same year he was seen near Olmstead Minnesota. In February of 2008 he made it a bit further south to Montrose Iowa apparently expanding his range and gaining experience to pass on to the next generation.  Just when and where he met Juliet remains a mystery. We only know he was there for her at the very end in the Cedar Bottoms of Muscatine County on November 15th, 2008.

To be continued....

Posted by: Steve Wilson | Feb 20, 2012 08:08


The valor of returning under fire to minister with calls of encouragement to the wounded, to share the moment of death with the fallen, is not the exclusive possession of the swans in the world of birds. I have read about such behavior in the Eskimo Curlew and the Carolina Parakeet, both species hunted to extinction by a merciless predator that was more than willing to exploit the opportunity to add the merciful to the bag. 

Considering the behavior of Romeo, small wonder the Trumpeter Swans in the lower 48 states were reduced to a small flock in the remote vicinity of Yellowstone National Park. Their bold voices, their large size their habit of checking back on fallen family members, their flesh and their feathers, and their need for large nesting territories along with the more recent threats of collisions with power lines and poisoning from the ingestion of lead shot and poachers have all conspired against them.

Historically, had it not been for the refuge of remote areas, we surely would have lost the Trumpeters.

I remember my first encounter with a small flock of Snow Geese as a young hunter.  After the first volley of shots there were wounded family members on the water violently flapping their pathetically broken wings and calling out in fear and desperation to their temporarily more fortunate kin who had gained the refuge of the sky. To my surprise at the time, the airborne birds having gained all the freedom and safety  the sky had to offer turned back to answer the calls of the fallen and in so doing were added to my slaughter. I too showed no mercy. It must be a human thing.

However, examples abound of people who have found greater satisfaction in bringing the threatened back from the precipice of extinction rather than driving them over the edge. This too must be a human thing, though too often too little and too late.


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