How one Michigan township plans to fight 'invasion' of mute swans

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Mute swans are an invasive non-native species that pose a growing threat to native animals, habitat and people, according to the DNR.

The first pair of feral mute swans was introduced to Michigan in 1919 in Charlevoix County. The population has continued to grow since that time. By the mid-1940s, the flock had increased to about 47 individuals. These swans spread through northern lower Michigan.

In 1972, the flock near Traverse City numbered between 450-500 birds and was increasing at 15-22 percent annually. The population in northern lower Michigan was over 1,000 birds by 1982, with over 2,000 birds statewide by 1990. During this time, a southern flock of mute swans was also established in southwest Michigan.

Concerns over the expanding population of non-native mute swans were first expressed by the DNR in the 1960s, and that concern continues today. Mute swan management activities have been taking place for decades at varying levels.

Each year, the DNR gets reports of mute swan attacks on people in watercraft and on shore. These situations all pose potentially dangerous results, and as the mute swan population grows, so do the conflicts.

Dexter Township adopted a resolution this week that will allow the DNR to implement a cull of mute swans through 2021.

The plan included spraying 100-percent food-grade corn oil on mute swan eggs and some euthanasia procedures on adult mute swans. 

Mute swans are one of the world's most aggressive waterfowl species, especially during nesting and brood-rearing. Mute swans exhibit aggression toward other waterfowl and can displace native waterfowl from their nesting and feeding areas by attacking, injuring and even killing other birds.

The DNR's Mute Swan Management and Control Program Policy and Procedures outlines both short- and long-term population goals for mute swans in Michigan. The short-term goal is to reduce the statewide mute swan population growth to zero by 2016.

A longer-term goal is to reduce Michigan's mute swan population to less than 2,000 by 2030.

The animal advocacy group Friends of Animals says mute swans are "under attack" in Michigan. The group commented on another mute swan resolution in Putnam Township in February.

We are repulsed to learn that the Board of Trustees in Putnam Township, Michigan, approved by a 6-1 margin a resolution to allow the Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) to begin shooting all ages of mute swans reduce numbers of swans by thousands to the 2,000-range statewide. The  misled board “felt confident that the DNR knows how to do this as humanely as possible.” Less than two years ago, Waterford Township, Michigan curtailed it’s swan-killing plan under the guise of swan’s “aggressive behavior toward people” when Michigan residents expressed overwhelming support for swans.


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