Investigation continues into swan, heron kills

Greg Seubert

An investigation continues into the illegal shooting of three swans and a great blue heron at a state wildlife area near Navarino.

Clark Delzer, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources conservation warden based in Shawano, is leading the investigation of the shootings, which were reported in late August at the Navarino Wildlife Area.

“We’re still working leads, still working on the investigation,” he said. “There’s not a lot that we can really disclose, as it is a pending investigation.”

The DNR received a report Aug. 27 of three young trumpeter swans that had been found dead in the wildlife area, a state-owned property that covers nearly 15,000 acres in southern Shawano and northeastern Waupaca counties.

The heron was found the following day, and Delzer believes the shootings are connected.

“It’s not uncommon to have illegal shootings across the state,” Delzer said. “Stuff like this happens. Anything pertaining to a federally protected species like a trumpeter swan is more uncommon. I’m not familiar with this happening in Shawano County before.”

Tim Ewing oversees the Navarino Nature Center, which is adjacent to the Navarino Wildlife Area.

“There have been things that have happened in the past,” he said. “There have been poaching and other issues before. It is unfortunate that this incident has happened and that we’re having issues again.”

Delzer said calling the DNR’s Violation Hotline — 800-TIP-WDNR — is the best way to provide any information about the case.

“We have 24/7 dispatchers that can relay information to me,” he said. “Informants can remain anonymous if they choose to leave their information.”

“I know they are trying to get everybody to keep their ears open and, if they hear something, to call it into the tip line,” Ewing said. “You can remain anonymous, and that’s how they’re hoping to get the information that leads to a break in the case.”

The nature center doesn’t have a reward program, he said.

“We’re not set up to be able to do anything like that as a nonprofit,” he said. “I know there have been people that have come forward that would be willing to donate to that.”

The shootings have become a hot topic of conversation at the nature center, according to Ewing.

“A lot of people are upset because we’ve had a lot of bird watchers, photographers and wildlife individuals that have been coming to the wildlife area and watching these birds nest,” he said. “This year, they had seven over the course of the summer. They did lose three to natural selection and that kind of stuff, but they had four that were of decent size that basically made it past that point that they may lose any more.”

The three swans were born this year, Ewing said.

“The parents are still around on the flowage, and people are still watching them,” he said. “It was the young cygnets that were shot. We’re probably talking four to five months old at the max. We’ve had trumpeter swans nesting on the wildlife area, and we do believe it is the same pair that has been setting up shop for the last several years.

Ewing noted the swans set up at the same location on the McDonald Flowage along McDonald Road and were unsuccessful with raising cygnets. This year, the swans and their cygnets could be sighted in the water 20 feet from passing vehicles.

“That’s why this hits so close to home for everybody,” Ewing said. “People were really watching them, and they were able to get a good view of them. I had one guy call from Appleton, and he had been up here week after week after week trying to document the growth of the babies. He was really upset about it.”

Delzer is confident the case will eventually be solved.

“We work as hard as we can on cases like this, especially these high-level ones,” he said. “We are hopeful that we’ll be able to solve this case.”