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    Posted June 12, 2014 by
    Minneapolis, Minnesota
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Photo essays: Your stories in pictures

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    Swan Death by Lead Poisoning

    On one of my many ventures out to the river during the deep freeze in the winter, this -20 below zero winter day revealed heartbreak on the ice. A juvenile Trumpeter Swan, known as a "cygnet", lay dying on the ice, obviously showing signs of lead poisoning.

    What was more disheartening to me was that two other photographers were there, walking right past the dying Swan, my asking for assistance and receiving shrugs and indifference. Knowing the reputation of a local man who helps with the Swans, I hiked up to his home knocking on his door at 7am on that winter morning, unsure of his reaction. Almost immediately he came to the river to take the Swan to a wildlife rehabilitation center.

    The cygnet had a procedure called "gastric lavage" performed on it, in which the swan is put under general anesthesia, and its system flushed to try to remove lead pellets. Often, MOST often, they die, as the lead has wreaked too much havoc on their systems and they shut down. This particular cygnet had 4-5 procedures done, started to recover, and then its system shut down. I didn't want to hear any more.

    The heartache for me is watching the impact of lead poisoning on waterfowl. It's a horrible slow death. This was only a juvenile, probably no more than a year old. But the lead particles from shot gun shells and fishing lures did their worst, destroying the swan's chances for life.

    What was most discouraging was watching two other photographers I'd never seen before walk right past the swan, just step over him at the river, taking for granted a dying swan and doing nothing. I asked one of them how is it possible you consider yourself a wildlife photographer which should exemplify respect and reverence for wildlife, yet, you easily dismiss a dying animal and do nothing?

    Wildlife photography brings out the best and the worst in the shooters out there. There are those that leave no footprint and those that trample over, bait and use any method to "get the shot". For the new shooter, learn from those that truly respect nature and her wonder, for the pros, I hope we pass on the ultimate message: do no harm and treat with dignity that subject which captures your spirit.
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