Trumpeter and tundra swans are once again descending for the winter on fields in the Skagit Valley and surrounding areas.

With the birds’ annual return, the state Department of Fish & Wildlife has reopened a hotline to report observations of any appearing dead, sick or injured. The hotline is available 24-7 now through March. The hotline is at 360-466-4345, ext. 266.

The agency has for several years operated the hotline during the winter in an effort to understand and reduce lead poisoning that occurs when the swans consume lead pellets left behind through hunting, as well as to collect birds injured in collisions with power lines.

Some trumpeter and tundra swans in Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom counties, as well as in southwest British Columbia, die each winter after ingesting lead, according to Fish & Wildlife.

Although lead materials have been banned from use during waterfowl hunting for 28 years, remnants remain in fields and waters where the birds forage.

The large birds are also prone to striking power lines. Puget Sound Energy and the Northwest Swan Conservation Association work with Fish & Wildlife to pick up swans reported to the state hotline.

Reports should include location and condition of the swans, as well as the reporting party’s name and phone number.

— Reporter Kimberly Cauvel: 360-416-2199, kcauvel@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kimberly_SVH, Facebook.com/bykimberlycauvel

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