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Posted on Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 4:19 p.m.

Swan Friends offering $5,000 reward for information in slaying of three trumpeter swans

By Ryan J. Stanton


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 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

Today we asked 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 He can be reached at (734) 623-2529 or



Tue, Aug 4, 2009 : 2:17 p.m.

I wanted to add my comments as these swans meant a great deal to me. I have passed them almost everyday for years coming and going from work. I passed by THEIR HOME on Saturday and saw the dead mother and baby surrounded by a group of caring and outraged individuals and I cried. At this time in our country, especially here in Michigan we have found very little to feel positive about. Watching a family of federally protected swans was a highlight to my day. It gave me hope that there is good in this world. I feel sorry for those individuals that feel that a reward for finding whomever did this should go to humans rather than animals. You should take a look around and see that we are not the only living creatures on this planet but we are the most destructive and deadly. Have a heart.


Tue, Aug 4, 2009 : 9:25 a.m.

You can see them on the map. Ironic that they show up in the 'birdseye view'.


Tue, Aug 4, 2009 : 9:15 a.m.

Thanks for sharing your personal priorities PformerPfizer. Other individuals get to choose theirs, too, and put their own money where they deem fit. Actually, you might be on to something though--perhaps the person(s) who mutilated wildlife for kicks (yes, assuming this act was committed by humans) was just frustrated because of unemployment. Maybe if these sympathetic people had donated their money to job training we could have had this 'perfectly stable' member of society working at a retirement home, or maybe in child care?


Tue, Aug 4, 2009 : 7:21 a.m.

I agree with 1973Saline - come on people - SE Michigan is in a full blown Recession, but can raise $5,000 to reward someone to find out who killed some birds. Why not put that money into a local food bank or homeless shelter or job retraining program? Priorities folks! Pformer Pfizer


Tue, Aug 4, 2009 : 12:49 a.m.

is everybody sure this happened Saturday,It almost sounds like the county hit them mowing the ditch.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 10:45 p.m.

I find that it is tragic when any creature is tortured or killed, human or non-human. The causing of suffering is evil, period. Why would anyone want to find excuses for it, or attempt to lessen the evil of it by diminishing people's heartfelt reactions?


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 10:27 p.m.

No I don't think it is odd. I think that for the last 10-12 years people have enjoyed seeing these birds living their lives and they are very pissed off that some moron decided to kill them. I do think that it is odd that there are people who can't understand this.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 9:46 p.m.

Does anybody else feel that it is odd that swans getting killed gets more attention and public outcry then an actual PERSON getting shot, robbed, carjacked, etc... While I'll agree that this is a terrible act if there would be this much public outcry/media coverage when crimes are committed against people then the area would be a safer place.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 9:37 p.m.

Well, once again many of us have sat back and watched as the so called 'do gooders', in an effort to be one with nature, kill it. I live near the corner, and for many years have enjoyed driving by the wet lands at Parker and Scio Church viewing the many forms of wildlife (from a distance)that inhabit the wet lands, including the swans. I am very saddened by their death. I was also dismayed a few months ago when I noticed that someone had started placing feed out for the swans, just inches from the pavement. They already had plenty of food and this only encouraged the swans to the street, and if it did happen, to the so called 'killer'. This is nature, or it was. Many times when driving by the swans, if not in the traffic, they were too close for their safety. On one occasion I blew my horn in an attempt to scare the swans away from the road, only to have profanities shouted from the onlookers parked and standing at the side of the road. Some of you have blamed this on hunters. I am a hunter, and no true hunter would have done such a horrific deed. Now, not only will I not be seeing the swans anymore as I drive by several times a day, but I will have to look at signs, stuffed animals and shrines (for the next day or two) placed by people in an attempt, I can only imagine, to make them feel better about what they have done. Wait, they don't need to feel better, they don't think that they have done anything wrong. You are as guilty as the person (if it was a person) that did this.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 8:57 p.m.

I think it's safe to say, that since minks, or coyote or fox do not have opposable thumbs, it's unlikely that they are responsible for this act. I have read a few reports that say the female was shot. It seems strange that anyone would be bothered by the attention this is receiving. This was a huge thing- and is bringing to light these animals gave to those that watched for, enjoyed and treasured them. They were outstanding parents.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 8:11 p.m.

Mr. Collicott, Your right, there is no reason to assume that this was caused by a human. Thank you for reminding me of this reality. It was not something I considered until reading not only your post, but also the post by SmokeyBob. I had already posted at that point. I pray this was an act of nature and not man.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 7:55 p.m.

While I am a hunter and do not apologize for it. I would like nothing better than to have the responsible parties caught and suffer the consequences. I do believe that to say they need to be off the streets is a little strong. My guess would be that it was an act carried out by someones teenage son. And while this was a senseless act of cruelty I don't think we need to be talking about putting someone away. I too had seen these Swans on different occasions. I would encourage anyone with information to come forward.

Duane Collicott

Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 7:51 p.m.

Why are so many people assuming it was a human that did this? That's a bit of a jump.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 7:45 p.m.

Least we not forget the psychological make up of an individual whom is able to take the life of a helpless animal. I am not a psychologist, but I do know there is a correlation between individuals whom injure or kill animals and then go on to harm humans. Perhaps a misdemeanor now, but manslaughter later on. I say again, thank you to those who were able to raise the money for a reward. I pray with all my might that this person is caught and receives the help that is necessary to prevent anything like this from happening in the future. They may have been just "cute little birds" to some, but to me they were graceful majestic beings that survived amongst daily on lookers and traffic, They learned to adapt to us, however someone could not see the beauty in these endangered birds. Not only could they not see the beauty, but they saw fit to mutilate them, that is sick!!


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 7:42 p.m.

I still think it was a mink or weasle not a person that got them. When exrayed they found no pellets. I had ducks killed in a pen and that is all they had was holes in the head and feathers all over the plaCE.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 7:19 p.m.

People who think this is silly haven't witnessed these beautiful creatures day after day being true role models for the human race. We should take a few lessons from these swans, as they were so protective: Mom on one side, Dad on the other, doting on their children all day long. It really was inspirational.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 6:29 p.m.

Mr. Sussman, I can understand your concern about crime in Ann Arbor but your comparison is a little off. First, these huge, majestic and valuable birds weren't in Ann Arbor. Second they are designated as a protected species. Lodi Township is smaller than Ann Arbor and crime is much less prevalent so this does make news for this community. I drove by these birds several times a week. They were beautiful, nature's very own public art. I miss them. The person(s) who chose to destroy them for whatever reason, should be caught, brought to trial, convicted in public, and sent off to 90 days in jail to think about they did and what laws they broke, and how they made so many people sad and angry.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 6:13 p.m.

This is not just any "misdemeanor", Mr. Sussman. It is a loss of innocence.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 5:45 p.m.

Many thanks to those who were able to financially provide a reward. I have been so heartbroken and sickened since reading of this murderous act. Whomever did this is very very disturbed and needs to be off the streets immediately. I drove by this family almost daily and loved seeing them swimming so gracefully. Again, many many many thanks to those who were able to financially provide the reward!


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 5:18 p.m.

This is like closing the gate after the cow runs away. It makes me very angry that the DNR didn't move them to a place of safty to begin with. I always worried that they would get hit by a car or another animal would harm them... well I guess another animal did, a monster kind of animal.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 5:12 p.m.

This is so sad. The coward(s) who committed this violent act against defenseless swans deserve(s) to be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible. It's time for animal cruelty to have much stiffer penalties.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 4:25 p.m.

I drove by these beautiful birds last Thursday and now 3 are gone. Whoever did this needs to be punished - please - if you know anything at all about this cruel act, call the authorities.