Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
August 27, 1999

Trumpeter swans to leave Lake LaVerne

by Linda Charles
The trumpeter swans will be saying goodbye to Iowa State, but dont worry -- there will be a new Lancelot and Elaine in their place.

Vice president for business and finance Warren Madden said it was decided this summer to replace the pair of trumpeter swans that have made Lake LaVerne their home since August 1995.

"The decision was made that this particular pair of trumpeter swans are probably not going to acclimate in the populated environment around Lake LaVerne," Madden said.

Madden, biology professor George Knaphus, representatives of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), students from the swan committee and facilities staff met this summer and agreed that the pair of swans need to be relocated.

"We concluded this summer that we don't want to continue to keep trumpeter swans fenced into the west end of Lake LaVerne," Madden said.

The swans did not stay on the lake,but roamed around campus and across Lincoln Way into campustown. Their wanderlust created hazards, both for the swans and drivers. In December 1996, they were placed in a fenced enclosure at the west end of the lake to stop their wanderings. They also have tended to bite, even in the fenced-in area, raising concerns, particularly about small childen. Officials had hoped that once the swans bred, they would be content to stay on the lake.

The pair has not yet bred, but Madden said observations of the Iowa State swans and other trumpeter swans in the state indicate breeding would not significantly change their behavior.

DNR representatives "believe that the wandering characteristics are genetically ingrained and that isn't likely to be modified," he said.

The trumpeter swans were introduced to Lake LaVerne as part of a DNR project to return the once-native bird to Iowa. Trumpeter swans hadn't lived in Iowa since the 1880s. The swans thrive in areas of open water, and the draining of the wetlands in Iowa forced the birds to go elsewhere.

Trumpeter swans are larger and noisier than the mute swans (so called because they make no sounds). A trumpeter swan's bill is dark black and more pointed that the knobby, orange bill of the mute swan.

The DNR will seek a place to relocate the swans, probably to a more isolated area.

Madden said the trumpeter swans may be relocated yet this fall and he hopes a new pair of swans will be on the lake by next spring.

"It has been a worthwhile project to gather data on how trumpeter swans would adjust to the more urban and populated campus setting," he said. "DNR has indicated that, although disappointed in the outcome, they are appreciative of the university's willingness to cooperate in this experiment over the past four years."

Facilities staff have begun searching for a replacement pair of swans. They probably will be mute swans like were on the lake before, Madden said. The search will be for swans that don't need to be fenced-in on the lake and will acclimate to people.

"We will continue to have Lancelot and Elaine on Lake LaVerne," Madden said.

Diana Pounds, University Relations,
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