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Posted on Sat, Aug 1, 2009 : 6:09 p.m.

Lodi Township residents mourn deaths of trumpeter swans; authorities investigate

By Ryan J. Stanton

For years, a family of trumpeter swans lived in the marshlands at the corner of Parker and Scio Church roads in Lodi Township.

Among the rarest and most majestic birds in North America, the white-feathered waterfowl were an excuse for area commuters to drive out of their way to catch a glimpse. Bird watchers often stopped with their cameras.

But after what's believed to be an early Saturday morning slaying, all that remains along the stretch of Scio Church Road is a trail of white feathers, a silent marsh and many unanswered questions.

"This was the most photographed corner in Washtenaw County," said Kathy Lundberg, owner of Scio Church Stables just down the road. "Everybody has seen them. They've been hanging at the corner for so long."

Nearby residents said they believe the mother and father were killed, along with one of their two offspring. The bodies of the mother and one of the offspring were along the side of the road early Saturday.

"It's just baffling, completely baffling that anybody would do such a thing. They've been such an inspiration and a beauty to us for years," said Lundberg, mourning the loss Saturday with her daughter, Annette.


An emotional Anita Monical said she deliberately drove by the intersection each morning to see the swans on her way to work in Saline. She and others pulled over in tears Saturday after learning what happened.

"This is a joy stealer. There's no reason for this. They just took a corner of the world away," Monical said. "What was done was so horrible. People are just devastated."

Several people were on the scene consoling one another as authorities began to investigate. Residents said the state Department of Natural Resources picked up the bodies of at least two, possibly three, dead swans and were looking for a fourth that survived.

DNR officials could not be reached Saturday, and officials from the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department did not return several calls for comment.

Witnesses e-mailed photographs of the slain swans to At least one of the swans was shot in the head, and the photos also show a pile of corn placed along the side of the road.

"At first we thought they were hit by a car, but it appears that they were lured with food and shot," said Diana Stetson, who lives in the area. "I cannot tell you how many people stopped - people got out just sobbing."

Manchester resident Aimee Bingham, who works at The Arena in downtown Ann Arbor, said she was on her way home from work at about 3:30 a.m. Saturday and found the swans dead. She said she quickly called authorities.

"It was gruesome," she said. "I had to swerve to miss them. Feathers were flying still and everything, so it had probably just happened."

The Ludington Daily News reported Friday that a 19-year-old Michigan man was arraigned on a charge of killing an endangered species after allegedly shooting a trumpeter swan in Mason County. That man is facing a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail. In addition, a restitution fee of $1,500 can be applied.

The Minnestoa-based Trumpeter Swan Society says the trumpeter swan is North America's largest waterfowl and one of its rarest native birds. The group calls the black-billed swan "an inspiring reminder that we can save some species that have been reduced to near extinction."

Resident Troy Ontko said a minimum $1,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to those responsible for killing the swans. He and other residents have established an e-mail address for tips at A Facebook page also can be found by searching for "swanfriends."

"I hope whoever did this will get caught, or someone will turn them in," said James Zakhary, who lives in the area.

"People were so upset," he said. "Everyone who goes by watches for them. You look for it every morning when you go to work and look for them when you get home."

Photos by Ryan Stanton, The area in Lodi Township where the swans lived.



Wed, Jan 12, 2011 : 4:52 p.m.

Maybe someone was really hungry and had a family to feed?


Thu, Aug 6, 2009 : 11:52 a.m.

prob hit by a car.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 9:10 p.m.

Absolutely disgusting. I am trying to figure out a way to explain to my two small children as to where the beautiful swan family has gone. They loved to peer out their windows as we drove by slowly on our way into town.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 11:26 a.m.

I loved watching them, so lucky to live in the country, and then something like this happens. No fine or punishment would suit this type of demented behavior. Such a shame of nature. Very upsetting.

Mike & Kathleen

Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 10:06 a.m.

I live 3/4 mile from that location and this just sickens me! The swans have been a delight to see. My family and I have observed them for a long time and this is just sick!

Andersen/Lodi Township

Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 9:43 a.m.

How can anyone do this. These beautiful swans with their two young one, never bothered anyone. I drive by them every morning and late afternoon and when I didn't see them I got so worried. How could anyone do this, I hope to God someone comes forward and identifies these criminals. I am truly going to miss seing these beautiful bird everyday, again cruel people like that should be elimanted.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 8:49 a.m.

As one of the first people to stop and stay with our beloved birds, both Saturday & Sunday, I am angered beyond reason,saddened beyond tears but greatful for the dozens of wonderful, compassionate and ACTIVE people I have met and cried with. You are truly a gift to our community and to the wild creatures who grace our lives. Like many I've know the adults for 4 years, and they were my lunch partners when they would fly into Little Lake (off Jackson Rd) in the spring & fall-last year with their first family. They would come up for a favorite hand out of multigrain bread or a hamberger bun & sit and nibble at my sleeve if I didn't pay enough attention to them. I also visited them often at their site on Scio & Parker...I called them Sam & Sadie - they were never apart - and brought them their treats while they were nesting with their cygnets. I never approached them, their parents were ever vigilant, but so gentle to me. Sometimes we are graced in our lives with true beauty. We see modeled in a perfect creature the devotion and fidelity to each other and to their young, what we as human beings hold as a tenent for our lives. To experience this gives you a true appreciation of the beauty which the Creator God saw for this earth. When something like this happens, we are reminded that there is a real evil that resides with us as well. May we all strive to enhance and protect the gentle beauty that is around us, and bring to justice those who evil destroys that gift from God. Sue Furda


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 8:14 a.m.

I loved those swans and watched for them to arrive every spring. It was such a privilege to be able to see them and watch them raise their cygnets with such care. Once I got out of my car and herded the family to the side of the road because they were standing in a lane. They were so beautiful and so gracious about sharing space with us. I don't understand how someone could do this unless he's a sociopath. I can't believe how much this hurts.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 8:06 a.m.

Trumpeter swans were once hunted to extinction in Michigan - can you believe that there were NO breeding pairs left in Michigan just a few decades ago? Almost ALL of the Trumpeter swans you'll see now (including these two) are from the restoration efforts of the 80s (eggs taken from the Rocky Mountain and Alaskan populations, hand-raised, and released to repopulate). It has been nice to see about 3000 back in the state since then. Too bad... next year is the official trumpeter swan census. That is one less breeding-pair to count. To think of how many more broods of cygnets they would have had, over the years... Anyway, what awful news for swan lovers and conservationists alike. I hope somebody turns in the people who did this.


Mon, Aug 3, 2009 : 12:07 a.m.

Killing these swans is certainly a disgusting thing and a tragedy to us. I don't mean to digress, but I see the article clearly says the slain swans were Trumpeter Swans. It also (correctly) gives one key identifier: a black bill. Is this confirmed? I was under the impression that we have no Trumpeter Swans and that all of "our" swans were Mute Swans (which I frequently photograph with due care). The Mute Swan is slightly smaller, the bill of both genders is "orange" and the males (cobs) have a black bulb near their nostrils. Regardless, the person or persons who did this just stink. I wonder if it's possible to make donations to increase the reward?


Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 7:37 p.m.

Is it really that big of a deal? Yes, it is upsetting that someone would kill the swans, but I think you guys are getting a little too emotional about it. I could understand if someone had killed someones pet but not this. What is the most severe judgment they should get, because I would say just a hefty fine.


Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 3:06 p.m.

Can we know judge in the Mason County swan case? Sending letters to him asking that the severest judgement be decided for the killer from Ludington might create more publicity for this case, and a greater knowledge of the reward, which might encourage someone who knows the criminal to report him.


Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 9:42 a.m.

I'm interested in action, not arguing about duck hunters. I need to find the criminals who did this sick, sadistic thing. How can we contribute to the reward fund? What can we do to help?


Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 9:38 a.m.

It was probably some drunken, sick fools who did this. Just because we live in and around Washtenaw County does not exempt us from having idiots living amongst us. I hope the Sheriffs dept. finds the perpetrators and prosecutes them to the fullest!!!!


Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 9:13 a.m.

Thanks for the plug for all duck hunters, most who have supported wetland conservation for years and have been involved in getting native swans (Trumpeter) to regain a foothold. No I don't kill swans and the people that do should be punished severely. A pround member of Ducks Unlimited

Kevin Sharp

Sun, Aug 2, 2009 : 12:10 a.m.

So, so sad. Over the past few summers I've spent many hours enjoying and photographing those swans. To me, the saddest of all is to think someone out there harbors so much unhappiness and hate that they're compelled to do such a thing. They are the biggest loser in this, whether they know it or not. The best now that can come of the situation is for something positive to come of it -anything. In honor of the swans, and in memory of whoever killed them, I will be making a donation to either the Trumpeter Swan Society, Huron River Watershed Council or my local land trust.


Sat, Aug 1, 2009 : 9:27 p.m.

It is generally well known that ducks and geese are chased away by swans. I'd look for past, present or future duck hunters as the perpetrators of this crime. I have the same problem on my pond. (My swans are Mutes, not Trumpeters, though). Swans have enough trouble with snapping turtles without having the increased threat of humans...


Sat, Aug 1, 2009 : 7:50 p.m.

All I can say is that it has been wonderful driving this way into Ann Arbor from Manchester. I love to see the Swans and am excited to see how many babies they have. I was on my way back home from work at about 7:45 am Saturday, and I was devastated to see this grousome sight. My eyes instantly filled with tears and I felt a huge loss. I can honestly say that a lot more than just the Lodi Townsp residents mourn. The entire area mourns this loss of a beautiful and majestic family of Trumpeter Swans. This corner will never be the same again, and I am even considering not driving past there any more, because all I feel now is anger toward the heartless thing who could point a gun at such a beautiful creature! I hope they deeply investigate this crime and lock up the individual that did it! There should be a reward posted for information leading to the prosecution of the criminal behind this. I urge anyone with information to please come forward. - Heartbroken in Manchester.


Sat, Aug 1, 2009 : 7:30 p.m.

Oh my gosh. This is really terrible. I've spent the last few months admiring the adult swans watch over their young. Such model parents. I felt so lucky to be able to drive by and check up on these wonderful creatures--I've driven out that way to show friends of mine just how great they are. I simply cannot imagine just how crass a person would have to be to have done such a thing. Shame. Shame. Such Spirits, simply struck down. I will remember them Always.