Perhaps you have been on a canoe or jet-ski and been caught off guard by an aggressive swan hissing and chasing you? Or maybe you live on a lake or pond and have noticed swans driving out ducks and other waterfowl? If so, you have encountered the mute swan, a common nuisance bird in Michigan. In this article we will examine the characteristics of the mute swan, highlight some of the problems they pose, and offer guidance on removal.
Characteristics of the Mute Swan
The mute swan is a non-native invasive waterfowl. They are white, similar to trumpeter swans and tundra swans (both native to Michigan), but are identifiable by black knob on the top of their bill. Another easy way to identify a mute swan is by their orange bill (Michigan’s native swans all have black bills). They are extremely aggressive; besides driving out native waterfowl with their hostile behavior, they are also known to attack people both in water crafts and on the shore. They also destroy wetland habitats by their voracious eating habits.
Their numbers are rapidly expanding. In 2000, there were only around 5,700 mute swans in Michigan. By 2010 that number had ballooned to 15,500. Because of their negative impact on native waterfowl, wetlands, and the dangers posed to humans, the Michigan DNR has categorized the mute swan as an invasive species and allows mute swan removal and nest destruction under certain conditions.
The DNR has a goal of reducing Michigan’s mute swan population to 2000 by 2030. To attain this goal will require the cooperation of property owners. Read on to learn more about mute swan management!
Management and Removal of Mute Swans: Permitting
Fortunately, property owners do not need to put up with mute swan aggression! The DNR allows individuals, associations, organizations and groups of homeowners to take charge of their water by removing mute swans and destroying their nests.
Anyone seeking to remove mute swans must apply for a removal permit from the DNR. Permits can be applied for by individuals, organizations, or groups of homeowners (applications made by multiple landowners require 70% of the landowners on a given body of water to sign a petition in favor of removal, or obtain a supporting resolution from their local government). Permits are valid for 5 years. You can download the permit from the DNR website here:
What sorts of methods are approved for mute swan removal?
The DNR Mute Swan Management and Control Program Policy and Procedures do not stipulate a particular method for mute swan capture, but the Wildlife Division, who issues the permits, may specify certain methods of capture and disallow others.
Rehabilitation or release of captured mute swans is absolutely not allowed; the DNR mandates that all captured mute swans must be euthanized. Various methods of euthanasia are permitted. Captured mute swans may be euthanized by: a veterinarian at the DNR Wildlife Division Disease Lab in Lansing; by carbon dioxide based inhalation; by injection of approved euthanasia drugs; by cervical dislocation (breaking the neck); by a single shot to the head with an approved firearm as indicated in the permit (some permits may authorize lethal shooting of free swimming mute swans as well).
Carcasses of euthanized mute swans must be buried, incinerated, or placed in a landfill in accordance with federal, state, and local regulations.
Egg and Nest Destruction
One important aspect of mute swan management is destruction of nests, commonly referred to as “egg shaking.” There are various methods approved for nest destruction:
- Spraying or submerging the eggs with a 100% food-grade corn oil and replacing them in the nest.
- Shaking the eggs and replacing them in the nest.
- Chilling them.
- Physically removing the nesting material to deter nesting/re-nesting.
- Nests of mute swans that have already been removed may be destroyed to deter re-nesting by other mute swans.
Egg shaking requires a separate permit from the DNR. The egg shaking and nest destruction permit can be downloaded here.
Other forms and applications relating to Mute Swan egg destruction, reporting, etc. can be found on the DNR’s Mute Swan page.