Wildlife enthusiast Dianne Owens drove north from her summer home in Soldotna to Tern Lake on Thursday, looking for a pair of trumpeter swans she saw there in late May -- but not since.
"I drove down there to take pictures because (I'd heard) they were close to the road," she said. "I noticed that one of them had what looked like a green Russian River fly floating next to it as it was swimming, but I couldn't really tell what it was."
Back home, she enlarged the digital photo to find that the swan had an arrow with green and yellow feathers stuck in its right side.
"Some inconsiderate idiot son of a $#$@# shot one of them!" she said in an angry e-mail.
As word of the incident spread Friday afternoon, Jeff Bryden, lead law enforcement officer for the 5.5-million-acre Chugach National Forest, drove to the lake for a look.
"The swan is still swimming," Bryden said early Friday night. "We've got no leads, no suspects -- and I have no idea of how you'd catch the swan. It can swim a lot faster than we could get up to them.
"If you tried to net it," added Bryden, who didn't see the bird fly, "I think you'd slice and dice it to pieces. (The arrow) hasn't worked itself out, so I'm assuming it's deep," he said.
If a shooter was located, that person could face federal charges including shooting waterfowl out of season, Bryden said.
"I'm appalled, but not terribly surprised," said Stan Senner, executive director of Audubon Alaska. "But doing anything would be pretty tough. That's a big, strong bird."
The largest North American waterfowl with a wing span up to 9 feet, trumpeter swans were near extinction in the early 20th century but rebounded and are fairly common today. Senner estimated there are 18,000 in the Pacific Region, while lead poisoning in the Lower 48 has posed a problem.
They're regularly seen at Potter Marsh.
"There are hundreds of breeding pairs across the Kenai and north of here," said Thede Tobish, a local birding enthusiast. "They're a big draw for visiting birders because they're not common in the Lower 48," added Tobish, who said he'd never before heard of one shot with an arrow.
Tern Lake is a popular wildlife viewing area at the junction of the Sterling and Seward highways.
A myriad of birds, fish and plants flourish in the area. In addition to swans, common loons, bald eagles, and arctic terns share space with song birds and shorebirds. Beavers, river otters, muskrats and salmon ply its waters.
"I'd like to see somebody do something," Owen said. "It makes me sad that people do these useless, senseless things. They're such beautiful birds that mate for life, that's what's so sad."
Reach reporter Mike Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4329.
Who to contact
Anyone with information on the trumpeter swan shooting can report it to Chugach National Forest officials at 1-907-288-7727.