By Bill Taylor
Jim Occi, BugPics, Bugwood.org
Adult mute swans can be distinguished from Michigan’s native trumpeter and tundra swans by their bright orange bills (the native species have black bills). They also have wing spans up to eight feet and a regal appearance. However, the males are extremely aggressive and use their size to drive native waterfowl from the best nesting and feeding areas. They also occasionally kill these birds and regularly attack people in canoes, kayaks, and other small watercraft.
The people on my lake who do not want any mute swans harmed typically cite their beauty and good parenting habits. Conversely, the people who want to reduce or eliminate them talk about incidents where they killed ducklings or goslings or attacked people. Mute swans frequently appear calm and friendly, and one of the biggest influences on attitudes is whether a person has also observed their unpleasant side.
The DNR is concerned about the way that mute swans are displacing native waterfowl and hampering efforts to restore native species like trumpeter swans, loons, and black terns. As a result, it has established a goal of reducing Michigan’s estimated 15,500 mute swans to about 2,000 birds by the year 2030.
Mute swans clearly are a harmful invasive species, and conservation organizations like Michigan Audubon and Ducks Unlimited have publicly supported this reduction plan. However, many people still love them and complain loudly whenever any are eliminated.
I prepared this blog to give people who have some experience with mute swans an opportunity to share anecdotes and opinions on either side of the issue. Is the DNR’s reduction goal too tough, too lenient, or just about right? What do you think?