Band Tales: Indiana Hunter Drops Banded Swan

Hunt of a lifetime capped by a metal ring.

Merely getting the opportunity to hunt for a tundra swan takes a fair amount of luck. Being successful takes even more. Greg McGlone further defied the odds last fall when he hit a trifecta.

The Brazil, Ind., resident was among the lucky few to win a lottery-drawn swan permit for North Dakota, one of only a handful of states that even allows wildfowlers to hunt for tundra swans. Not wanting to squander such a rare opportunity, he chose to hunt with a partner who had taken several of the colossal cobs over his long waterfowling career. Plans were laid, and the pair headed west for what they hoped would be the hunt of a lifetime.

The fateful day came in early October. McGlone wasted little time when the opportunity presented itself, downing a healthy male with a single 45-yard shot.

"It was quite a thrill," he recalled.

As McGlone waded out to retrieve his prize, his partner noted the only thing that would be neater was if it had a band. When he reached the fallen bird, McGlone felt a twinge of disappointment when he noticed there was no band on the visible leg.

"Then I rolled it over and there it was," he said, referring to the band.

The thrice-lucky hunter was eager to report his good fortune to the U.S. Geological Society, and even more eager to read the results on his certificate of appreciation. He was a tad confused, however, when the certificate came back for the "whistling swan" he'd taken. Had his luck suddenly run out?

It turned out McGlone had no reason to fear recrimination for misidentification of game. The whistling swan and its Eurasian counterpart, the Bewick's swan, were formerly considered separate species, but were more recently lumped under the inclusive name "tundra swan."

For management purposes, North American tundra swans are divided into eastern and western populations based on where they breed and winter. However, some biologists believed there might be geographically and demographically distinct sub-populations within the eastern population. Were that the case, they would then want to establish separate population goals for each sub-population and monitor the harvest of each.

McGlone's swan, which was banded in Virginia as an adult just seven months prior to being taken, was part of that study. Eastern Population tundra swans nest from the north slope of Alaska to the eastern side of Hudson Bay. McGlone's bird was likely on its way south from there to its wintering grounds in the mid-Atlantic when its journey was interrupted. Had it been able to continue, the swan likely would ended up in a wintering area where enough mixing occurs between regions that biologists are unable to identify distinct sub-populations.

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