When local citizens first spotted the large bird just standing on the ice they called DNR Conservation Warden Phil Dorn.
Dorn, a warden who has worked the Barron County region since 1992, said some of the citizens concerned about the injured bird thought it was a goose.
Out on calls already that January day, he kept his eyes open for a goose but when he spotted the bird, it was clearly a swan.
“I found it standing on the ice on the little lake in downtown Cumberland,” said Dorn of the highly unusual sight of a trumpeter swan parked on the ice the afternoon of Friday, Jan. 8.
“This bird may have just kept swimming down the chain of lakes until he got to Beaver Dam Lake – the last lake to freeze over in Barron County.”
Whatever the reason, Dorn knew he had to do his best swan shuffle to get it, so he could help it.
Dorn recruited the help of a Cumberland police officer and asked him to be positioned on the road nearby in case the bird opted for a sudden directional change and decided to dash into traffic.
“But I got it to run the other way,” Dorn said.
Dorn chased the bird a couple of hundred yards across the ice.
The bird attempted to fly but it just couldn’t lift itself.
“It just got tired right away. It likely wasn’t getting great nutrition and it was cold.”
Dorn was able to gently grab the 15-pound bird, described by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a majestic bird known as the largest swan in the world and the largest waterfowl in North America.
A local volunteer drove the injured swan to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. The center last year cared for a record of nearly 12,000 birds, reptiles and mammals from Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Communications Director Tami Vogel said that’s an increase of 30 percent from 2014 for the center, which operates on private funds and donations.
The swan rescued in Cumberland joined six other such swans at the animal hospital. The swan was examined and the veterinarians and rehabilitators learned its primary feathers were in bad shape, Vogel said. And that’s why it couldn’t fly.
The bird also had open wounds and frostbite on its feet.
As the swan heals, the veterinarians will determine the best treatment to get this swan back doing swan-like things in the wild. For now, Vogel reports the swan is healing.
Dorn said citizens did the right thing by contacting the DNR about the bird. Contacting a licensed wildlife rehabilitator is another good idea if citizens are concerned an animal needs assistance.
Wild animals are valued by many, and it’s important to observe them at a respectful distance to keep them wild and allow for their life in the wild to continue, he said.
Dorn said citizens’ concern about their wildlife neighbors is business as usual in northern Wisconsin.
“I get a lot of calls about wildlife,” he said. “I think every warden does.”