One of Central Oregon’s most beloved animals was shot and killed Thursday afternoon near Sunriver.
Chuck, an 11-year-old trumpeter swan that lived at the Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory, was found bleeding in the Deschutes River downstream from the nature center at around 5 p.m. Thursday. Amanda Accamando, manager of the center, said the swan was recovered alive and transported to the emergency animal center in Bend, but ultimately the wounds were deemed fatal. Chuck was euthanized on Thursday evening.
“This is a terrible thing that could have been avoided,” Accamando said.
Accamando identified the injury as a gunshot wound but did not speculate about the type of gun used. While it’s legal to use a shotgun on an approximately 3-mile section of the Deschutes River during the winter, shooting a swan is a misdemeanor wildlife violation, according to Gary Ivey, board member for the Trumpeter Swan Society.
“It’s a tragic loss,” Ivey said.
Chuck was well-known in Central Oregon for his size, which Ivey said was larger than 30 pounds, and his long tenure in the region.
Ivey said the Trumpeter Swan Society purchased Chuck about a decade ago from a bird sanctuary in Michigan. Ivey said the swan originally was nicknamed “Sir Charles,” due to his lineage as the direct descendant of swans given to the Queen of England by officials from Alberta, Canada, before it was shortened to Chuck.
Elise Wolf, director of Native Bird Care of Sisters, an organization that works with injured birds in Central Oregon, said she remembers Chuck as a great father to four young swans — known as cygnets — born on July 4.
“He had a feisty little attitude, that’s for sure,” Wolf said.
Chuck was introduced to his mate, Gracie, in 2014, according to Wolf. While the two swans initially didn’t get along and had to be separated, Wolf said they were ultimately close for the rest of Chuck’s life.
“He was a good protector, which is what you want from an animal,” Wolf said.
Chuck’s death represents another setback to a population of swans in Central Oregon that has seen its fair share of problems. In 2016, a hunter shot and ultimately killed two swans — Hope and Fiona — at Summer Lake Wildlife Area. Earlier this year, raccoons ate the five eggs Gracie laid.
Ivey said the birds were hunted to near-extinction around the turn of the 20th century and still struggle with lead in the water from bait and fishing tackles. Today, about 30 trumpeter swans live year-round in Oregon, in addition to birds that migrate through the state, Ivey said.
Wolf added that swan populations in Oregon have been impacted by invasive species of fish in Oregon’s lakes and rivers. In addition to their beauty, Wolf said trumpeter swans play an important role in the ecosystem, eating plants other birds can’t reach, thanks to their long necks.
“They’re a graceful, powerful bird,” Wolf said.
Accamando said the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, along with Oregon State Police and the Sunriver Police Department, are investigating the case. Chuck and Gracie’s cygnets will remain in Sunriver through the winter and be transferred to Summer Lake in the spring.
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