TETON VALLEY, ID - In the early 1900s the trumpeter swans were thought to be extinct, until a small bevy was discovered at Red Rock Lakes just across the Idaho border in Montana.. part of the tri-state area known as the
Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
11:12 "this is one of the last refuges for trumpeter swans before they were exctinct. In the 1930s there were only 70 left in the lower 48.. and they were harbored by the ice free waters and security provided by the Yellowstone ecosystem."
Now, nearly ninety years later, Biologist Bill Dell'isola says there are still only 100 nesting pairs in the region., including 20 in Idaho.
The Teton Valley lies right in the middle of the Yellowstone eco-system... But here, the number of potato fields easily dwarfs the number of suitable wetlands for swan nesting, Dell'isola's group, the Teton Regional Land Trust is collaborating with Idaho Fish and Game, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Pacific Flyway Council and private land owners to protect and restore wetlands like those inside the sanctuaries of Yellowstone and Teton parks.
Even in Yellowstone, nesting success is low because of over-exposure to humans. Some park visitors admire the swans from a distance, using high powered lenses... But others are less educated and less sensitive to the birds' need for space.
Swans R14 and R18 were released with the help of local elementary students after they were hatched at a captive breeding facility in Jackson Wyoming.
"That's probably one of the more satisfying parts of the project, is being able to engage the students and get them interested in natural resources and protecting our natural heritage in idaho." said Dell'isola.
Now two years after R18 was released, Dell'isloa is encouraged to see that she and R14 have returned to the release site for the second year in a row. He hopes that like the grand Teton itself, the trumpeter swan will remain, as a breathtaking icon of this valley an the Yellowstone ecosystem.
"While the male is breeding age, the female is only two years old and hopefully she'll return next year, ideally she'll be able to breed and we'll have some chicks out here for the first documented breeding of trumpeter swans out here in recent times."