New state mandate leaves future of mute swan in Saline's Mill Pond Park up to Mother Nature
Lisa Allmendinger | AnnArbor.com
The fate of the possibly injured mute swan in Mill Pond Park in Saline will be left up to Mother Nature — or concerned citizens — following a vote Thursday by the state's Natural Resources Commission. The vote bans wildlife rehabilitators such as Carol Akerlof from assisting and releasing mute swans back into the wild.
“Mute swans shall not be released back into the wild in Michigan,” the new mandate states.
In addition, mute swans and their eggs and nest may be taken by Department of Natural Resources and the Environment personnel and those authorized by the department to control mute swans to reduce the invasive species' ever-increasing population.
The swans compete with state-threatened common loons and other native waterfowl for nesting areas, destroy aquatic vegetation, and as the swan population has grown, so has the swans' conflict with humans, according to the state.
"Reported attacks on humans in boats and on shore have become increasingly frequent throughout the state," according to a letter from Rodney A. Stokes, chief of staff for the state's Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
People began calling Akerlof, director of the Bird Center of Washtenaw County Inc. last month after someone saw an icicle hanging from the bird's mouth. Other people who spotted the swan and were concerned about its welfare also contacted her.
“I’m kind of numb because the decision is so new. I’m praying that someone doesn’t call me about a swan," Akerlof said,
Mute swans, recognizable by their bright orange beaks, were brought to the United States from Europe, and their numbers have increased from 5,400 in 2000 in Michigan to about 15,000 in 2010, the letter states.
The recently enacted order “removes the need for written approval for designated partners to assist the department in the removal of mute swans when beneficial to Michigan’s natural resources,” according to the letter.
It states mute swans can be removed from an area for the following reasons:
- To stabilize or reduce the mute swan population or to prevent new populations of feral mute swans from being established in this state.
- To prevent mute swans' interference with the establishment, reestablishment or reproductive success of native wildlife, native vegetation or endangered or threatened species
- To protect health, safety or welfare
Akerlof said her hands are tied when it comes to helping the Mill Pond Park swan.
Concerned Saline residents have been feeding the swan loose leaf organic lettuce and corn, but several swan watchers said Friday they had not seen the bird recently.
Should Akerlof capture the bird, she’d have to take it to be euthanized, so she’s hoping that people will continue to feed it.
“Ordinary people can help it,” she said, and they could even capture it and take it to a veterinarian if they are still concerned about its welfare.
Disregarding the new mandate could cause her to lose her state-issued license, which she’s had since 1984. The center’s 90 volunteers and summer student interns handle about 2,000 calls a year and in 2009, worked with 830 birds.
The state estimates that there are about 15,500 mute swans in Michigan. In 2000, that population estimate was 5,400.
In the summer, there are usually two pairs of mute swans at Mill Pond Park, neighbors say, but in the winter, these swans tend to head to more open water.
Lisa Allmendinger is a reporter with AnnArbor.com. She can be reached at email@example.com. For more Saline stories, visit our Saline page.