State troopers investigate disappearance of several swans at Potter Marsh

Published: Oct. 8, 2020 at 5:26 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Over the summer a family of swans at Potter Marsh has captured the attention of photographers and onlookers. Jerry Vandergriff, an amateur photographer who visits the marsh nearly every day, said it was the first time he could remember seeing a mated pair of trumpeter swans that actually nested at the marsh.

Vandergriff has taken hundreds of photos of the parents and their five offspring, called cygnets, but in late September, he took his last picture of the swans all together.

“At four o’clock in the afternoon, I took a picture of the family, all seven of them,” said Vandergriff. “And two hours later, another photographer took a picture of them flying back across the railroad tracks, and there were only five.”

Vandergriff and others believe two of the cygnets were shot down when they flew to the other side of the Seward Highway, across the tracks, to the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge where duck hunting is allowed. Two days after that, the adult male swan turned up missing too. Vandergriff has no proof, but he and several others suspect the birds were shot and killed.

“I can’t imagine anything else since they flew over there intact, and there were hunters over there, and they flew back decimated," he said.

Alaska Wildlife Trooper Sgt. Jesse Darby said right now, the swans' fate is pure speculation. There is no evidence that shows what happened to the swans. But he said the investigation is considered active and noted that it is illegal to shoot trumpeter swans anywhere in the state.

Vandergriff said while he can’t be certain what happened, he does know members of the little family will be missed.

“It’s very sad ... they really gave a lot of people a lot of joy watching them,” he said.

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