Wyoming Partners for Fish and Wildlife
Project Profile: Alkali Lake Wetland Restoration
Contact: Mark Hogan 307 332-8719
Trumpeter swans are large, majestic swans with beautiful snow white plumage and striking black beaks. They are the largest extant waterfowl species native to North America. Beginning in the 1700s, trumpeter swans were widely hunted for their skins, their down, and their plumage. By 1900 they were nearly extinct. In 1930 only about 200 swans remained, wintering in the Greater Yellowstone area by staying in the waters kept ice-free by warm springs.
With a goal of expanding the Rocky Mountain population of trumpeter swans onto the Wind River Reservation, the Alkali Lake wetland restoration was begun - and subsequently enhanced - by the Partners for Fish and Wildlife (PFW) project to include small islands to attract nesting swans. The Wind River Valley, located on the Wind River Reservation in the Wind River basin, is renowned for its mild winter and is considered a traditional wintering area and important hunting grounds by local Native American tribes. Warm springs can be found in several locations in the valley, and many rivers and streams maintain open (thawed) water throughout the year, providing late season migration and wintering habitat for a variety of waterfowl. Partners for the project included the Shoshone and Arapaho Tribes and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). PFW planners realized that once restored, the site had all the right ingredients for swans, including wetland size, deeper water in close proximity to dense vegetation, as well as a remote site with very little human disturbance. These factors and more made the site an ideal candidate to construct an island for swan nesting.
Considered just outside the "core" area for the Rocky Mountain Population (RMP) of trumpeter swans, the upper Wind River Basin annually winters up to two dozen trumpeter swans. For the past decade, both trumpeter and tundra swans have increasingly been using the area for migration and as many as 200 tundra swans have been counted on PFW projects in the area in a single day. Along with trumpeter swans and tundra swans, target species for the project include a variety of shore, wading and water birds, including American avocets, Wilson's phalarope, white-faced ibis, American bittern, northern pintail, lesser scaup, bufflehead, ringnecked duck, as well as cross-over pacific flyway species like cinnamon teal. Valley wetlands serve as both seasonal migration and reproduction habitat. In addition, wetlands like Alkali Lake function as late spring staging areas for several diving ducks (lesser scaup, ring-necked ducks, and bufflehead) following frozen conditions as the more than 1,200 montane lakes and ponds of the Wind River Mountain Range thaw out when spring arrives in the high country. Not only majestically beautiful, the PFW Alkali Lake project will continue to support waterfowl, swans and other native species for generations to come.