About Trumpeter Swans
The largest swan in the world, the Trumpeter Swan, is native only to North America.
Once hundreds of thousands of pairs of these birds nested in the northern areas of Canada and the U.S. in the summer and then migrated to warm southern U.S. marshes for the winter.
With the arrival of Europeans, these birds became widely hunted. Valued for their beautiful feathers, their meat and even for their feet which were used to make ladies’ purses, they began to die out. In Ontario, the last Trumpeter was shot by a hunter in Long Point in 1886. By 1935, only 69 Trumpeters were counted in all of North America. It looked like these beautiful birds were about to join the long list of species that had been hunted to extinction but then there were two lucky breaks: a previously unknown flock was discovered in Alaska and people started to realize these birds must be protected. Thus a movement was born to save this species and it’s habitat and to try and reintroduce it to areas where it had been wiped out by hunting.
In the U.S., citizens led the way and governments followed. Hunting was banned and habitat was protected but in Ontario it seemed the Trumpeters were gone for good.
A Second Chance
In 1982, retired Ministry of Natural Resources biologist Harry Lumsden made it his mission to bring the Trumpeter’s back to Ontario.
He was able to get eggs from northern Alberta and Alaska and convince some Ontario landowners to help raise the resulting young cyngets. Over time, enough were raised that they could be released into the wild.
Slowly over many years, these birds began to spread out and reestablish their territory.
Today, after 35+ years of effort to bring back the Trumpeters their population in Ontario numbers about 1,000 birds. There are several reasons why their population remains low. Many Trumpeters have been lost due to lead poisoning that they get from accidently ingesting lead shot and fishing lures while feeding in marshes. Others are lost to collisions with powerlines and occasionally some are shot by hunters although it is illegal to do so.
Habitat loss, especially of wintering areas, is also greatly impacting their restoration.
Why LaSalle Park Is Special
The first trumpeter swans to mate in the wild and migrate in Ontario in more than 100 years came to LaSalle Park in Burlington with their six cygnets in 1993. The female swan, nicknamed Pig Pen for her messy eating habits, was a successful breeder who returned for 11 winters to LaSalle Park with her offspring.
Today 200 Trumpeter Swans make LaSalle Park their overwintering grounds, the largest concentration in Ontario.
The harbour is perfectly situated to provide shelter from the cold north and easterly winds; it has a beach area where they can rest; there is an abundance of aquatic plants for them to feed on and the water is shallow enough near shore for them to tip to feed (they don’t dive).
Human encroachment around the Great Lakes, the draining of wetlands and development have practically eliminated suitable overwintering grounds for Trumpeters. Without LaSalle, they have nowhere to go.
Trumpeter swans mate for life. Females typically lay four to six eggs. They are good parents and unlike other swans have been known to attack snapping turtles who are after their young. Trumpeter swans are mature enough to start their own pair bonds at about 4 years of age though many don’t mate until much later.
LaSalle Harbour Habitat Under Threat
The Trumpeter Swan habitat at LaSalle Park is under threat because there is a plan to expand the small marina at the harbour, creating 340 permanent slips, and build a permanent 400m break wall. This may cause many negative impacts including: causing the harbour to freeze for long periods which would be deadly for the swans; reducing space for the swans; restricting their flight path; damaging the aquatic vegetation they feed on and deteriorating the water quality.
The harbour area is rented by the city of Burlington from the City of Hamilton. The LaSalle Park Marina Association is a privately-run entity that has a joint venture partnership agreement with the City of Burlington.
We have reviewed the environmental studies report that has been compiled for this project and find it does not adequately address the serious impact this could have on the Trumpeter Swans. For this reason we asked the Ministry of the Environment to require a higher level of environmental assessment. Conservation Halton has made the same request. After two years of review the Ministry put 3 conditions on the project with 10 parts.
The Trumpeter Swan Coalition has continued to raise concerns about the project including asking the Lasalle Park Marina to produce a business case; raising questions about a Marina Capacity study used to justify the project on that was paid for with public money, and with money from the LPMa but has never been discussed publicly in Burlington; asking how the City could support a $14 million infrastructure project, on land they don't own, for the benefit of 85 members of a private club when there are so many other needed infrastructure projects in Burlington worthy of funding that would benefit many more citizens.
Despite the fact that this process has been unfolding for 6+ years, most Burlington citizens are still unaware of the proposed plan for this important public park.
We Need Your Help
The Trumpeter Swan Coalition wants to ensure no harm comes to this species of special concern that has made Burlington their home. We would like you to join us.
To find out more, please contact Bev at 905-562-3819 or email [email protected] You can also join the Trumpeter Swan Coalition on Facebook.
These magnificent birds have fought back from the brink of extinction and deserve our protection. Please connect with us to see how you can help. Thank you!
You can help save the Trumpeter Swan's winter habitat in Burlington.
Please contact us at www.tr[email protected] or call us at 905-562-3819.