DNR plans to eliminate mute swans

Aug 4, 2013

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An invasive type of wild swan is on a state agency's hit list. 

Michigan bird experts say the state's mute swan population tripled in the last decade to more than 15,000.

The mute swans tend to crowd out other birds, including the endangered trumpeter swan.

The Barry County Board of Commissioners recently voted to allow the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to begin a five-year program to eradicate the mute swan by shooting them.

Board chairman Craig Stolsonburg says the DNR approached the commissioners with the plan, and a resolution was quickly approved by the board.
 
"They came to us, and said they were having a difficult time obtaining 70 percent of lake owners' approval in order to take care of them on a lake-by-lake basis,"Stolsonburg says. "They wanted a countywide resolution to allow them to do it without the 70 percent required."

Stolsonburg says he voted against the resolution.

"I felt like we were taking away the individual property owner rights and the township rights to deal with it on their own -- or even the lake associations," Stolsonburg says."I live on a lake and haven't had any personal negative experience with the mute swans."

He says the county's lawyers are looking into the legality of the county resolution, which does offer townships an opt-out clause within 60 days of approval.

However, Stolsonburg says the townships have not yet been notified of the resolution, which was approved more than two weeks ago.

Barry County's many lakes and wetlands offer ideal nesting conditions for mute swans, which can grow to 25 lbs., according to Kara Haas, environmental education coordinator for Michigan State University's Kellogg Bird Sanctuary.

"Mute swans are good breeders and they're quite aggressive, so they're not afraid to kick other birds out and take over the best spots."

Haas says the endangered trumpeter swan is native to Michigan and North America.

"There are about 800 trumpeter swans left in Michigan. They're slightly larger than mute swans and will aggressively push back at the mute swans, but as that mute swan population keeps growing, it'll get more difficult because the trumpeters could push the pair away and another is right behind them."

"I love all birds, and I don't want to have a state of just mute swans," Haas says. "I'd like to have a state with biodiversity among our birds. We still have loons, we still have trumpeter swans, we still have mergansers (ducks)."