In January five trumpeter swans were found dead around the Dungeness Valley on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. One of them was believed to be shot because X-rays showed 41 shot gun pellets in the bird’s body. Trumpeter swans came near to extinction at the beginning of the 20th Century, and while they have recovered, the number of deaths in one area, and the possible shooting, were a concern.
However, further tests showed that all five of the swans had lethal levels of lead in their livers.
Local wildlife managers don’t know where the swans could have ingested the lead shot. Swans and other birds swallow stones and grit to help them grind up food in their gizzards. The wildlife managers will keep an eye out for further lead poisoning cases in the region in the future.
I tried really hard to work in an “eat lead” joke here, but I just couldn’t do it.
Photo: Thomas G. Barnes, University of Kentucky, courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service