After two dramatic rescues, lead-poisoned swan has a long road to recovery


A trumpeter swan ailing from apparent lead poisoning was rescued twice in the past week – first by a fellow swan, and then by a group of humans – and is now recovering at an animal center.

On Valentine's Day, the Trumpeter Swan Society posted photos of a cygnet (a term for a young swan) frozen on a piece of ice in the St. Croix River, near Hudson. In what the society called a "remarkable" rescue, a nearby mother swan came over and chipped away at the block, helping free the bird.

Just three days later, that trapped swan once again needed saving.

The Pioneer Press reports a group of people saw the young swan had moved away from the large flock, and was showing signs of lead poisoning.

Armed with two kayaks and a net, a team of experienced swan handlers went to work. Here's a video of the rescue.

The ailing bird was taken to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center (located in Roseville) Tuesday evening.

In an update posted by the center, they say doctors found three pieces of lead in its gastrointestinal tract. (See an image of the radiograph at right.)

The center notes just one or two pieces is enough to kill a trumpeter swan.

"The swan is emaciated and weak. It survived its first night under care, which is a big first step," the center's update says. "Next step will be getting it stabilized before we proceed with a gastric lavage to flush the lead pellets from its GI tract."

The Department of Natural Resources says lead poisoning is the "greatest threat" to trumpeters swans in Minnesota. The birds often end up inadvertently eating fishing sinkers or ammunition fragments that contain lead, while foraging for food through marsh and lake bottoms.

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