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Long-time AGFC employee found dead at Cook’s Lake

CASSCOE - Don McSwain, 63, manager of the Potlatch Conservation Education Center at Cook's Lake, a facility operated by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, was found dead in the lake late Monday afternoon.

His death, which appears to have been caused by a boating accident, is under investigation by AGFC wildlife officers and Arkansas State Police. Federal authorities also will be involved because McSwain was found on the White River National Wildlife Refuge, which is federal property.

McSwain was an AGFC employee for 29 years. He was a high school biology teacher before he joined the AGFC July 16, 1981. He became a wildlife officer four months later, and started managing the Cook's Lake facility in Arkansas County July 11, 1999.

He was honored by Ducks Unlimited for his work with the Arkansas Greenwing Camp for youngsters ages 14-16 interested in conservation and waterfowl hunting. McSwain volunteered when the camp began by teaching firearm safety and waterfowl hunting ethics. DU named the Don McSwain Marsh, near Zelma, Saskatchewan, for him in 2007. It covers 99 acres of dense duck nesting cover, 36 acres of wetlands and 9 acres of native parkland.

McSwain also was involved in banding ruby-throated hummingbirds, which are plentiful because of the rich hardwood habitat around Cook's Lake. He and Tana Beasley, education specialist at Cook's Lake, banded more than 1,000 hummingbirds in 2009 as part of The Hummer Bird Study Group, a nonprofit that organizes banding stations. McSwain held Arkansas's only master hummingbird banding permit, issued by the Department of the Interior.