The Camrose Swan Program started in the 1960s when two Mute swans were donated to the City of Camrose from Halifax. Named “Hali” and “Faxy,” these two swans kick-started the program, and it’s been around ever since.
Chris Clarkson, parks director for the City of Camrose, said that in the late 80s, the city was working with the Canadian Wildlife Service because the trumpeter swan was on the endangered species list. “Some of them wouldn’t go south, so we helped them in a program to gather eggs and bring them to the mutes,” said Clarkson.
Presently, there are two Trumpeter swans on Mirror Lake and two Mute swans on Duggan Pond.
“In the winter, we capture them and take them to the ‘Swan Abode,’ where they live in enclosures for the duration of the season,” said Clarkson. “We try to make it an easy transition from the natural setting to the hot tub setting, and our staff works hard to do so.”
The City of Camrose must have a specific license to harbor the swans because they are migratory birds. “We have an Avi-cultural permit, and we follow certain regulations laid out by the federal government,” said Clarkson.
Clarkson stated that it’s been a neat ongoing project for Camrose. “We spend about $50,000 on it per year – including food, changing water, vet bills and the cost of maintaining them in the winter.”
Other organizations have helped with the Camrose Swan Program, such as the Camrose Vet Group. “We have a really good relationship with them, and they’ve assisted us with some of the costs for swan maintenance,” said Clarkson.
The swans that currently live in Camrose are wild, however, they cannot fly. “Sometimes it’s a love hate relationship because they are wild and they can be unpredictable,” said Clarkson. “You have to be careful because they can sometimes chase you.”
Clarkson also talked about how the swans have become a tourist attraction. He described meeting a German family while traveling in Victoria, BC, who knew about the Camrose swans. “The citizens always look out for them,” said Clarkson. “It was a novel idea that evolved, and I think that people really enjoy seeing them out there.”