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October 1, 2004

No swan song

Oiled Cygnet escapes death in Alaska, but may miss first migration

Photo of Cygnet 87

Cygnet 87, cleaned of oil, is recuperating in IBRRC's Alaska center. (IBRRC photo)

Anchorage, Alaska

W hen "Cygnet 87" arrived at International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) in Anchorage, September 27, the young swan was covered with thick crude oil, and would have died if not for the lifesaving efforts of wildlife rehabilitation professionals. The unfortunate cygnet fell into the same reserve oil pit that almost took the life of another young swan exactly one year ago. That bird, named "TR", missed migrating with her family, and was flown to Delaware in order to meet up with the wild flocks.

BP personnel on the North slope of Alaska found the swan and rushed the bird to Barbara Callahan, IBRRC regional representative for Alaska, an oil spill veteran trained in the rehabilitation of oiled birds.

“Although she’s not out of the woods yet, I feel that she has an excellent chance of survival, just like TR did, said Barbara Callahan. “This is due to the quick action of petroleum industry people who captured her and got her to us, and having a facility specifically designed for rehabilitating oiled wildlife.

IBRRC operates the Alaska Wildlife Response center in Anchorage, a large warehouse funded by the petroleum industry, and designed specifically to handle up to 500 oiled birds at a time.

Cygnet “87” is now clean and regaining the waterproofing lost from being oiled. But, whether her flock will begin their migration before she is ready for release, is another question. She may have to make her first journey from Alaska via commercial airline, as TR did.

On September 29, 2003, “TR” flew from Anchorage to Philadelphia International Airport. She stayed at Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research, Inc, in Delaware until the migratory tundra swans arrived at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge. Before she was released at Eastern Neck on December 3, TR was outfitted with a transmitter collar that relays her location coordinates to an Argos satellite, enabling biologists to track her during the past year.

“87” Will either go back to the North Slope to travel with its family south, or travel to Delaware in an airplane in the coming weeks. It all depends on how quickly she recovers and when her family decides to leave on their long migration south.

Also see: Oiled cygnet may catch a flight south: KTUU-TV story

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Media contact:

Barbara Callahan, International Bird Rescue Research Center, Barbara@ibrrc.org

(907) 230-2492

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