I mentioned to a coworker last week that one of the swans that has made its home at Madigan Army Medical Center had died. She was shocked.
“Everyone knows those swans,” said the reporter who I honestly didn’t think had ever been near Madigan. “You should write something.”
So, 2½ months later, I’m writing to tell all of FOB Tacoma’s readers that Lewi the swan has died. The 17-year resident of the Army hospital died unexpectedly on Jan. 9. And the Madigan folks gave the swan quite a sendoff: The current and a former commander held a ceremony for the bird last month.
(A new bird, the aptly name Lewi II, is already making a home in the hospital’s lakes.)
The awesomely headlined (“Swan Wake”) story in this month’s Mountaineer newspaper provides a bit of background on Lewi and his pal, Madi:
Madi and Lewi were brought to Madigan to help control the Canada goose population that invaded the ponds. They are mute swans, which are very aggressive and territorial, and according to (former Madigan commander Maj. Gen. Leslie) Burger, the strategy worked well.
“It wasn’t very long after the pond was built that Canada geese decided this would be a neat place to stay,” Burger said. “The facility manager at the time had only one person to keep the grounds clean, and so he tried one thing after another to keep the geese population down.”
Burger relayed the attempts that were made at population control. The first measure taken was to gather up the geese eggs, but it was soon discovered that the geese would just lay more eggs. The next attempt was to physically move the geese, but Burger told the facilities manager that he didn’t think that was logical.
“These are birds that fly from Siberia, across Canada and the United States, into Mexico, and you want to move them 20 miles away,” Burger said. “They’re just going to come back with all of their brothers and sisters, which they did.”
The third try was to put up engineer tape to keep the geese out. Watching from the command suite, Burger said the first goose turned around and walked away from the pond. “I thought, son of a gun, this may work,” he said. “But the second goose came up to the tape and went under it.”
They even tried scarecrows. That was when a member of the vet command suggested the mute swans, which was finally the tactic that worked.
“We wound up keeping the swans and indeed, the population of geese has been kept down,” Burger said.