Swan Friends offering $5,000 reward for information in slaying of three trumpeter swans
The group known as Swan Friends is now offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those who killed a family of protected trumpeter swans this past weekend in Washtenaw County's Lodi Township.
"We've got fliers up all over," said Troy Ontko, leader of the grassroots group of residents mourning the death of three beloved swans. "There's 255-plus members on our Facebook page. I've gotten hundreds of e-mails, most in support or offering assistance."
State officials told AnnArbor.com today they want to pursue criminal charges against those involved in the Saturday morning slaying of the family of swans - but they're going to need the public's help to solve the case.
"We have no suspects yet, but we're hoping people step forward with some information," said Mary Detloff, a spokeswoman with the Department of Natural Resources.
Anyone with information can call the DNR's Report All Poaching line at 1-800-292-7800.
DNR officials said they believe someone used a firearm to fatally shoot the three swans in the early morning hours Saturday near the intersection of Parker and Scio Church roads, where the swans lived and mated for the past several years.
Of the family of four, the mother and one baby were found dead Saturday near the side of the road. The father was found severely injured on Sunday and had to be euthanized, authorities said.
Carol Dangler, an Ypsilanti wildlife bird expert, is caring for the surviving baby, which has been named Lucky.
"As far as I know, she's doing great. She had no injuries," Ontko said.
Detloff said all three deceased birds have been sent to the DNR's wildlife lab at Michigan State University for testing to determine their cause of death. Once authorities know what they're dealing with, they'll decide on how to proceed with the investigation, she said.
"It's just a rather unfortunate incident that people think they can take these potshots at the swans," Detloff said. "Trumpeter swans are a protected species in our state and there are stiff penalties for killing one."
Detloff said a DNR conservation officer conducted a thorough investigation at the scene, looking for firearm shells, vehicle tracks and any other possible evidence. At this point, it's "pretty clear that the one had a gunshot wound to the head," she said.
The black-billed, white-feathered trumpeter swan - much more rare and more passive than typical swans - is a threatened species in Michigan and is protected under state and federal law. Anyone found guilty of killing one faces a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and 90 days in jail, as well as $1,500 in restitution to the state.
Native to North America, trumpeter swans were hunted almost to the point of extinction in the early 1900s. The species made a strong comeback in Michigan and most of North America through a reintroduction plan put in pace in the 1980s; by the year 2000, there were 2,000 swans counted nationally, including about 400 in Michigan.
Detloff said it took about two months to sift through evidence to bring charges against a man suspected of killing a trumpeter swan in Mason County. If people come forward with the right information, it could take only a matter of days, Detloff said.
Swan Friends is requesting anyone with information to step forward and e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today we asked AnnArbor.com readers to submit their photos of the swans - and many people responded. We've put together a slideshow of some of the best photos (Note: We added new photos at 8:30 p.m.):
Ryan Stanton covers government for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at (734) 623-2529 or email@example.com.