Idaho hunters may have a new species to chase according to a bill introduced in the state Legislature.
A bill to allow swan hunting was introduced Monday in the Senate Environment and Resources Committee. If approved the bill would allow for the development of a tag to hunt swans and create a swan hunting season in the Gem State. A swan tag would cost $21 for residents and $65.75 for nonresidents, according to the bill.
Paul Kline, the deputy director of Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said the bill targets tundra swans, but could include other species in the future. It also calls for the expansion of pheasant stocking by the state outside Idaho’s nine wildlife management units.
Tundra swans are commonly seen in the Panhandle during their spring migration to breeding grounds in Alaska, but fall and winter observations in southern Idaho’s Snake River valley and in the Kootenai River valley in Boundary County are also common, according to Fish and Game.
Many area residents are most familiar with the swans’ demise in the lower Coeur d’Alene River Basin, where swan deaths are attributed to poisoning from mine contamination in the wetland sediments along the chain lakes where the birds forage.
Each spring, an average of 150 tundra swans are found dead or sick along the Coeur d’Alene River floodplain, according to Fish and Game. Around 95 percent of wetland habitat in the lower Coeur d’Alene River Basin contains lead levels toxic to swans and other waterfowl.
Fish and Game has partnered with landowners to restore wetlands in the area free of toxins as part of a mining settlement that made available $140 million for wetland restoration. The department two years ago completed a comprehensive restoration plan for restoring natural resources impacted by historic mine waste.
Tundra swans are more vulnerable than ducks or geese to mine waste because they burrow into the mud to feed on roots and tubers, increasing the amount of exposure to contaminants.
Habitat restoration began in 2006, when 400 acres were restored near Lane. Five years ago, Fish and Game restored 65 acres of adjacent wetlands.
For Kajsa Van de Riet, of the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality who helps restore wetlands and provide clean swan habitat, knowing the birds have a non toxic place to nest, feed or hold over during migrations makes her efforts worthwhile.
“Seeing these swans continues to put all this (work) in perspective and reinforces the urgency and importance of what we’re doing,” Van de Riet said.