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Officials investigate death of two Tundra Swans

Posted: January 3, 2013 - 1:17am
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Alaska Wildlife Trooper Aaron Frenzel points to a pair of Tundra Swans that were found dead in the Mendenhall Wetland State Game Refuge on New Year's Eve. Troopers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Juneau Field Office are seeking tips from the public as they investigate the deaths of the birds.  Emily Russo Miller/ Juneau Empire
Emily Russo Miller/ Juneau Empire
Alaska Wildlife Trooper Aaron Frenzel points to a pair of Tundra Swans that were found dead in the Mendenhall Wetland State Game Refuge on New Year's Eve. Troopers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Juneau Field Office are seeking tips from the public as they investigate the deaths of the birds.

Wildlife officials are investigating the death of two Tundra Swans that were found in the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge in Juneau on New Year’s Eve.

Alaska Wildlife Troopers initially thought the pair of migratory birds had been shot — either intentionally or accidentally — about two to three days prior to being found along the Mendenhall River in the refuge.

But no bullet wounds have been found yet as the carcasses are still partially frozen, and an X-ray must be conducted to determine whether they were shot, according to Alaska Wildlife Trooper Aaron Frenzel.

The troopers were alerted to the case when a man walking the refuge found the swans and called the authorities at about 3:15 p.m. The swans were recovered the same day.

“Its kind of a bummer because there’s not a lot of these around in Juneau, and people always like to see the swans, so we’ll try to find out what happened here,” Frenzel said.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game estimates there are about 100 Tundra Swans that visit Juneau each year on their migratory path. They are attracted to the tidal salt marshes in the 3,500-acre refuge, according to Ryan Scott, area management biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The refuge is popular for duck and geese hunting, but it is illegal to hunt Tundra Swan in Southeast Alaska. It can potentially result in misdemeanor charges for taking game during a closed season.

Scott said he recalled one other case a few years ago where a person shot a swan in Juneau, but that it was an accident. The hunter reported himself to authorities.

Frenzel says he is hopeful that is what will happen in this case.

“It’s completely possible an accident happened,” Frenzel said. “So the main thing is is doing the right thing after that accident occurs: contacting us and saying, ‘Hey I made a mistake, I shot the wrong thing,’ and coming in and dealing with it.”

Not much is known about the swans in this case. Their ages, sex and weight will be determined later during a necropsy.

The two swans are currently in a trooper storage facility in Juneau, and they will be sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife lab in Ashland, Ore., for the X-ray on Thursday.

Alaska Wildlife Troopers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Juneau Field Office are asking the public to come forward with any information about the case.

Callers can contact the Wildlife Troopers in Juneau at 465-4005, or the Alaska Fish and Wildlife Safeguard at 800-478-3377.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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