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Two swans poisoned from lead tackle back-to-back in Lake Mendota

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MADISON (WKOW) -- A swan that appeared to be frozen on Lake Mendota last week was actually dying of lead poisoning, according to the Dane County Humane Society -- and it's the second swan in a month to come under their care after being rescued from the ice.

Humane Society experts say leftover lead tackle from anglers is to blame for both incidents.

"The blood values were too high for us to read on our in-house analyzer," said Wildlife Training Supervisor Jackie Sandberg, of the lead in the blood of the first swan. "One of our highest records, I think, of any species we've seen."

That swan had lead levels around 800 micrograms per deciliter. The Humane Society treats any animal with levels over 10.

The most recent swan had lead levels over 300, and the fishing tackle wasn't stuck in the swan -- so the Humane Society is able to successfully treat the animal back to health.

"Any amount of lead is not good for an animal," Sandberg said. "So we prefer it was zero for every patient that comes in."

She says the Humane Society usually only treats one or two swans throughout the entire year -- instead of just in the first two months.

"At most, we've had three swans together as a group here at our Humane Society," Sandberg said. "We may see 1 or 2 every year, but it's for the exact same thing -- and it's almost always for lead toxicity."

With back-to-back incidents, there's now a renewed push to take lead out of all outdoor sports.

"We have a long history in the State of Wisconsin of using lead shot for hunting or lead sinkers for fishing, so we're always encouraging anglers and other people in that community to choose alternatives that aren't lead," Sandberg said.

The DNR advises anyone with lead tackle not to throw it in a lake or even a trash can, but instead find a local recycling or hazardous waste collection site so that it won't harm wildlife.

Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

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