Early morning storm to blame for deaths of nearly 40 swans in Utah, wildlife officials say

Chris Green

Early morning storm to blame for deaths of nearly 40 swans in Utah, wildlife officials say

By Carter Williams, KSL.com | Posted - Nov. 24, 2020 at 4:12 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — A storm that passed through the Wasatch Front is to blame for the deaths of at least three dozen swans found over Davis and Salt Lake counties earlier this month, state wildlife officials said Tuesday.

Dozens of swans were found injured or dead on Nov. 14 after a strong storm passed through northern Utah, bringing a rare combination of heavy winds, graupel and lightning, otherwise known as thundersnow. The storm passed through the two counties in the early hours of the day.

One Bountiful resident shared with KSL TV footage from a doorbell camera the moment that the sound of swans in distress could be heard.

The number of dead or injured birds found grew throughout the day as the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources received several reports from residents in the area. As of Tuesday, 36 tundra swans were found dead and at least another eight were found injured, according to DWR spokesperson Faith Heaton Jolley.

The birds that survived the storm were sent to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah. The conservation nonprofit based in Ogden posted on Facebook last week that three of eight birds sent to the facility had died. It wasn't clear if those swans were a part of the 36 or were additional deaths. A trumpeter swan was also found injured and taken to Hogle Zoo for treatment.

It was determined after a necropsy that the birds died of blunt force injuries. It's believed that the winds from the swift-moving storm forced the birds to collide with the ground or other objects around the area at "high-speed impacts," Jolley said.

The other five swans at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah were expected to recover. The nonprofit received more than $1,300 in crowdfunding to help pay for the cost of rehabilitating the wounded birds.

"Several swans required sutures to repair various injuries to wings, legs and feet," officials from the group posted on Nov. 17.

Swans typically migrate through Utah in November on their way to California for the winter. In fact, the peak times for swans to be found in northern Utah during the fall is Nov. 5-25, based on DWR surveys conducted from 1962 through 2017.

There are normally upward of 25,000 swans found in the Great Salt Lake area per week during the peak time. Most of the birds are found in or around the Bear River Refuge, located about 40 miles north of where most of the dead or injured birds were discovered.

Contributing: Garna Mejia, KSL TV

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