Lodi Township swans died of blunt trauma consistent with being struck by a car, DNR says
Authorities say three swans killed over the weekend in Lodi Township died of blunt trauma consistent with being struck by a vehicle - not gunshot wounds as originally suspected.The Michigan Department of Natural Resources said in a press release this morning that a necropsy report on the dead swans' carcasses showed blunt trauma.
Two of the dead swans were discovered next to the road Saturday morning. Nearby residents said they appeared to have been lured into the road and shot sometime around 3 a.m. Saturday.
A third swan was found severely injured Sunday morning and had to be euthanized. The fourth swan in the family was uninjured.
According to the press release, "In his necropsy report, DNR Wildlife Veterinarian Dan O’Brien said the male adult swan and female cygnet found dead early Saturday morning died of massive blunt trauma consistent with being struck by a vehicle. An adult female swan from the same pond that was found alive on Sunday with severe injuries and had to be euthanized also suffered of blunt trauma, O’Brien said."
Mary Dettloff, a spokeswoman for the DNR, said the agency originally suspected gunshot wounds based on the conservation officer's visual inspection of the carcasses at the site Saturday morning.
"The only reason the swan carcasses were sent to the lab for a necropsy was to pinpoint the cause of death," she said. "It took X-rays to determine if a firearm was used. X-rays showed no pellets or bullet fragments in any of the birds. This was a very fluid situation, as many of our investigations are."
The death of the swans prompted an outpouring of anger and sadness; the family of trumpeter swans was a fixture near the intersection of Parker and Scio Church roads for years.
Residents who suspected the swans were shot or beaten to death quickly mobilized, putting up fliers and offering a $5,000 reward.
On Sunday, Ray Stocking, president of the Washtenaw Audubon Society, cautioned against jumping to conclusions. This morning, he said he was relieved to hear the news from the DNR - but hoped more information would come out on what happened.
"My first reaction was that my faith in humanity is restored knowing they apparently weren't shot and/or clubbed to death," Stocking said. "My second reaction is that it's frustrating that it doesn't lead to answers about what happened. There are still a lot of unanswered questions."
Several residents told AnnArbor.com over the weekend that they had long feared the swans would be struck by a car since they were so close to the roadway. It's unclear whether the DNR found any evidence at the scene.
Troy Ontko, who helped organize the reward and Facebook page for the effort, said the consensus today has been to continue offering the reward to find out what happened.
Stocking urged anyone who has information on the case to come forward.
"It was a tragic, unfortunate event," Stocking said. "I hope someone will come forward and put the community at ease."
DNR conservation officers will continue investigating the case and will follow up on tips provided by the public. Anyone with information can call the DNR’s Report All Poaching Line at 800-292-7800.