Home Page › Forums › Ask a Swan Specialist › Michigan DNR Mute Swan Pamphlet
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I received at a lake association meeting, a pamphlet from the Michigan DNR about the “Mute Swan Problem”. Along with a menacing picture of an evil looking mute swan, it gave a number of facts which I would like you to comment on. There is an effort to get our lake association home owners signed approval to remove mute swan nests and eggs from our lake. We usually have 2 pair nesting each year. The pamphlet is here: https://www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/MuteSwanFacts_final_366761_7.pdf
1) Mute Swans Endanger Native Wildlife – … drive out native waterfowl and other wildlife… chase native breeding birds from their nests. Some birds at risk include: common loons, trumpeter swans, canada geese and native ducks.
2) Mute Swans Destroy Wetland Habitat
3) Mute Swans Threaten Humans …each year DNR receives reports of mute swan attacks on people in boats and on shore
4) There are many conservation groups that support DNR’s drastic reduction of mute swans numbers such as: The National Audubon Society, Ducks Unlimited, The American Bird Conservancy and many more.
I would like to provide to our association members a balanced perspective on what we are being asked to approve and hope that you can provide same.
Couple questions I have:
1) A primary rationale we are given is that removing the mute swans will allow the “native” trumpet swan to return. The implication is that our (all-sports 200 acre lake) will have trumpet swans. I have read that trumpet swans favor “undisturbed” waters. Are we likely to have trumpet swans?
2) Are trumpet swans less threatening to the issues 1-3 above? i.e. are they less aggressive to other wildlife and humans, eat less, etc.?
The DNR policy on removing nests, eggs and euthanizing swans is here: https://www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/2012_Mute_Swan_Policy_378701_7.pdfSwan ExpertKeymaster
Unfortunately, the misinformation provided by the Michigan DNR has been perpetuated since the late 1980’s when a deliberate collaboration between hunting groups and unscrupulous politicians was begun to remove Mute Swans from habitats so that Trumpeter Swans could be introduced (in areas that Trumpeters never existed) for Trophy Waterfowl Hunting purposes.
The misinformation campaign included the exact talking points that you provided:
Mute Swans are detrimental to the habitat (i.e., eat too much sub-aquatic vegetation (SAV), are aggressive and removed other waterfowl/wildlife from the habitat including Trumpeter Swans, attack humans, and their removal is supported by various groups.
In 2004, a U.S. federal Court ruling showed that the government’s “talking points” were not based upon any reliable valid scientific research. Instead, the court found that the government’s research was “shoddy”. In our research as well as the Hudsonia Report, we found that the governments’ so called “research” was shoddy, incomplete or totally non-existent.
In 2014, the International Swan Symposium was held in Maryland and was comprised of international Swan and Wetland Habitat Specialists. The above talking points were disputed by the swan and wetland habitat specialists. Actual valid reliable scientific research (old and current) has been intentionally ignored by government and other hunting organizations to promote the killing of the Mute Swans so that the Trumpeter Swan Trophy Waterfowl Hunting program can continue.
At this same meeting, I personally asked Michigan DNR officials (the same ones who are currently and have been instrumental in disseminating the false information and promoting the removal of the Mute Swans) about their research. Both officials stated that they had no research but were relying on research from other studies such as from the Maryland DNR.
At the Symposium, Maryland DNR officials admitted that they had no research, only anecdotal observations. The one study that was and has been cited by Maryland officials, was found to be non-peered reviewed, was incomplete and shoddily conducted. Furthermore, these same officials stated that the Mute Swan killing was conducted “under the radar from the media, politicians and the general public” knowing that there would be substantial opposition.
Michigan DNR officials admitted not only that they had no research, their “counts” of Mute Swans were severely flawed in numerous years, and that even though the Michigan Taxpayer was paying $125,000 to the federal government, $25,000 to the Michigan DNR to eradicate the Mute Swans (these numbers did not include equipment, staff, etc.), the program was running out of money, but they intended to continue the Mute Swan killing program. Furthermore, in another state, once the taxpayer signed on with the federal government to eradicate geese and other waterfowl for $25,000, if one targeted wildlife species showed up after the eradication, the governmental groups would come in to remove the individual member and recharge the taxpayers for $25,0000 for the one removal as they stated they were under “contract” to remove the species. This type of removal contract can place an entity under a never-ending removal contract that must constantly be paid. So, we would certainly suggest that the bottom line is read if any contractual removal agreement is signed.
Now, back to the facts.
1. Numerous old and current scientific research studies show that Mute Swans are no more aggressive, detrimental to the habitat or other waterfowl/wildlife than any other species protecting their habitat and families. Furthermore, new studies show that the Mute Swans actually promote biodiversity in the habitat by their presence and feeding habits. Dabbling ducks and other waterfowl that cannot reach food resources are fed when the Mute Swans bring the food sources to the surface.
As far as destroying the sub-aquatic vegetation (SAV), Mute Swans promote new growth and biodiversity of macrophytes and other waterfowl. The government states that the Mute Swans destroy and eat too much SAV. However, studies show that a Trumpeter Swan’s cygnet (baby swan), eats twice as much SAV as an adult Mute Swans. Furthermore, a Trumpeter Swan is much more defensive than a Mute Swan and will actually kill other waterfowl/Mute Swans just because of their size. Mute Swan attacks on humans have been overly exaggerated and are usually the result of boaters, fishermen and humans getting too close to nests or cygnets and the swans then actively chase and fight off the intrusion. There is even a story about a Mute Swan killing a person, but this story has been disputed in the courts.
The so called “conservation groups”, Ducks Unlimited, Audubon and others are actual hunting groups that want to see the Trumpeter Swans introduced so they can hunt the largest waterfowl in the world. One of Audubon’s chief executives stated in an interview in the Wall Street Journal that Audubon was becoming more of a “hunting and trapping” organization. Therefore, these groups advocating the killing of Mute Swans and introduction of the Trumpeter Swans are only promoting future hunting programs.
Lastly, these groups and unscrupulous politicians changed the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) so that Mute Swans and other birds are no longer protected. They cite that Mute Swans are not “native” even though the 2004 Federal Court ruled that there was no language in the MBTA that promotes the killing of native/non-native swans, and fossils of ancestral Mute Swans have been found in the U.S. Again, points conveniently ignored by the promoters of the killing program.
The above groups and politicians “reformed” the MBTA in 2004 and called the new revisions the Migratory Bird Treaty Reform Act (2004). The problem with this reformation is that it was never ratified and the U.S. has been in violation of the Treaty since 2004 and taxpayers have been funding a non-existent law. The killing of Mute Swans since the 1980’s has cost the U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars and continues today. Under the MBTA, NO SWAN is to be hunted except the Tundra Swan by indigenous people of Alaska. This ratification took place in 1992, but the MBTA has never been ratified since. So, again, any killing or hunting of any swan is illegal under the Treat and is also a violation of another Treaty the Ramsar Convention. Future lawsuits to the killing can cause civil and criminal retribution to those individuals and entities who have and continue to kill the swans.
We hope this information is of benefit. The Regal SwanTom PateGuest
Thanks so much for the quick and helpful response.
Could you address more specifically the couple questions I had as they seem to be particularly significant to our group:
1) We are being told that if we get rid of the Mute Swans, Trumpeter Swans will nest on our lake. Is this likely on a 200 acre all-sports lake or are they likely not to do so because they (more so than Mute Swans) avoid “disturbed” lakes? I read on Wikipedia about Trumpeter Swans: “Their breeding habitat is large shallow ponds, undisturbed lakes, pristine wetlands and wide slow rivers, and marshes in northwestern and central North America, with the largest numbers of breeding pairs found in Alaska. They prefer nesting sites with enough space for them to have enough surface water for them to take off, as well as accessible food, shallow, unpolluted water, and little or no human disturbance.” from: Mitchell, C. D.; Eichholz, M. W. (2010). “Trumpeter swan (Cygnus buccinator)”. In Poole, A. (ed.). The Birds of North America Online. Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
2) Are Mute Swans more aggressive to humans than Trumpeter Swans?
3) Are Mute Swans more aggressive to loons, ducks and other wetland wildlife than Trumpeter Swans?
BTW… you might enjoy two recent you-tube videos showing relative Trumpeter and Mute Swan “aggression”… happens to be in Michigan.