Two lead-poisoning cases in swans prompts reminder from wildlife groups


MADISON, Wis. –Wildlife organizations are encouraging people to use lead-free fishing products when heading out onto Wisconsin’s lakes and waterways following two separate cases of lead poisoning in swans.

Animal Service officers called the Madison Fire Department’s Lake Rescue Team last week after noticing a swan struggling off the shores of Lake Mendota near Tenney Park.

The swan had not moved from its location in 24 hours, according to a blog post on the Madison Fire Department’s website.

Rescuers said the swan was “alert but very lethargic” and it tested positive for lead toxicity. According to the post, tested blood samples indicated the swan’s lead levels were 30 times those considered toxic.

This incident comes nearly one month after another swan died from lead poisoning in Madison.

In that case, a tundra swan, pictured below,  was rescued near Picnic Point on Jan. 12. Hours later, staff with the Dane County Humane Society Wildlife Center announced the bird died from lead poisoning. X-rays of that bird revealed fishing tackle still in its digestive tract.

Blood samples indicated the swan’s lead levels were 80 times those considered toxic.

Local wildlife groups are reminding people that a little bit of lead can cause life-threatening problems in wildlife.

“Lead is in the environment already, but we don’t want to add to it,” said DCHS wildlife rehabilitator Sarah Karls.

The DNR has also launched a campaign called “Get the Lead Out” of our environment.

Rehabilitators report the swan rescued last week, pictured below, is doing well in their care, but they anticipate it will be there for quite some time.

“It’s hard to know if it’ll fully recover,” Karls said. “We’re taking it one day at a time.”