Trumpeter Swans Released into Blackfoot Watershed - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Trumpeter Swans Released into Blackfoot Watershed

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OVANDO -

Seven young, trumpeter swans were released into the Blackfoot Valley Thursday, as part of a collaborative effort to reintroduce the species, and help the swans thrive in Montana.

State officials, including Governor Steve Bullock, joined dozens of young students on ranch land near Ovando to watch the release of the swans Thursday morning.

Thirteen years ago, a nesting pair of trumpeter swans was spotted on a ranch near Lincoln for the first time in about a century.

Since then, members of the Blackfoot Trumpeter Swan Restoration Program and other state agencies have helped the swan population grow from 68 to more than 2,500 in the Rocky Mountain region.

The program includes the release of swans each year in the Blackfoot watershed, and the monitoring of their growing population.

The swans nearly went extinct by the 1900s after the early fur trade and European settlement, but re-emerged in Montana in 1935.

"The swans, they're so… they're so awesome!" exclaimed third grader Caroline Rosebaur.

Rosebaur said she feels lucky to see the swans enter their new habitat.

"They need to be protected, they're a very nice, cool, interesting animal," Rosebaur added.

The Swan Restoration Program is a collaborative effort of private landowners, local schools, national and state wildlife agencies to help trumpeter swans thrive in Montana.

Gov. Steve Bullock said, "Working toward to make sure these kids that are out here, see these for generations to come."

Greg Neudecker has worked with Blackfoot Challenge for 20 years, and says there's something special about releasing the swans.

"It's hard to describe the feeling that you're going to get when you hold and release a trumpeter swan, but to feel the heartbeat, to feel them kicking, to you know, actually smell the bird -- it's amazing, and it just touches you," Neudecker explained.

Blackfoot Challenge officials said after reintroducing swans to the Blackfoot, Mission, Centennial and Madison valleys, there are about 300 trumpeter swans living in Montana.

Blackfoot Challenge officials said the goal is to have seven breeding pairs of trumpeter swans living in the Blackfoot Valley for three consecutive years.

The trumpeter swan is the largest species of native North American waterfowl.

To learn more about the trumpeter swan population in Montana, click here.

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