GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — A trumpeter swan that was rescued from Lake Ripley was euthanized after it had extremely high levels of lead in its system, according to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.
Officials say high lead levels can lead to neurological damage that can't be reversed.
The swan had to be rescued from the ice twice since Saturday, which a spokesperson for the center said can be a sign that there's major neurological damage.
First, on Dec. 3, Ryan Kelly was at his friend Andrew Sandberg's family cabin along with his cousin Adam McDaniel. They noticed a swan struggling to move earlier in the day and saw it was still there right before sunset, so they decided to lend a helping hand.
"We were looking for signs that it's not moving or stuck. Sure enough, we see it trying to take off but not able to move," said Ryan Kelly.
They ended up getting a Hydroflask with lukewarm water to help get the swan out.
"We approached it slowly and came up with a game plan of where to disperse the water. My buddy, Andrew, dumps it on the two feet which helped to loosen the swan from the frozen ice. It gracefully gets up and looks back at us and says hi and thank you...just walks off into the beautiful sunset," said Kelly.
However, the swan didn't make it very far. Lake Ripley residents Chris and Randy Schlueter said they first noticed the swan was stuck on the lake a few days earlier.
The couple saw Ryan, Andrew and Adam use warm water to help temporarily free the swan from the lake's frozen surface over the weekend, but had a feeling it would end up getting stuck again. They were right.
The Schlueter's said they reached out to the Department of Natural Resources to help the stuck swan, but because of staffing issues, they weren't able to send someone to help.
Instead, they got in touch with the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Roseville. On Tuesday, Dec. 6, Randy went onto the ice with a blanket, sled and warm water to try to free the bird. Eventually, fellow neighbor Tom Smith brought out a hatchet to chip away at the ice - which worked much better. Together Randy, Tom and another neighbor, Jeff Woods, were able to get the swan off the ice, onto the sled, and back to shore.
"We thought we should do something," Randy said. "Its mate kept coming back."
Once the swan, swaddled in a blanket, was back on dry land, the makeshift rescue team loaded it into a dog kennel. At that point, the Schlueter's said the volunteer took the bird to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.
The center confirmed that when the swan arrived it was very thin and "minimally responsive." After detecting the elevated lead levels, they determined the animal needed to be euthanized.
According to a spokesperson for the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, lead poisoning can happen when swans dive to the bottom of lakes to feed and they accidentally pick up lead sinkers or spent shot. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, about 40% of Minnesota's trumpeter swan fatalities are caused by lead poisoning.
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