Tundra and trumpeter swans are making their spring migration through Whatcom County, but they face an old enemy.
Lead shot has been banned for waterfowl hunting nationwide for more than two decades, but still can be found in the fields and waterways where swans stop to gather and eat.
The birds naturally swallow small bits of gravel and sand to help them digest their food, but the leftover shot can cause lead poisoning.
Most of those birds flock to the fields of Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish counties, although the species has expanded its range recent years, said Kyle Spragens, waterfowl manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The department already has received reports of sick and dead swans in Clallam and Pierce counties within the past week, he said.
The agency is asking residents to report dead, sick, or injured swans. Some can be rehabilitated, but the reports also can help Fish and Wildlife assess the impact of lead poisoning on the swans.
Local residents can report their observations 24 hours a day by calling 360-466-4345, ext. 266, through the end of April. Callers should be prepared to leave details, including their name and phone number, along with the location and condition of the swans.
If you observe dead, sick, or injured swans, avoid handling or collecting the birds yourself, Spragens said.