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Posted on Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 6 a.m.

Concern over possibly injured swan in Saline's Mill Pond Park highlights conflict over non-native species

By Lisa Allmendinger

A mute swan that may be injured in Saline's Mill Pond Park has prompted residents to help the wild bird, a species considered a destructive pest by the state Department of Natural Resources.

Carol Akerlof, executive director of the Bird Center of Washtenaw County, Inc., said she’s received numerous calls about the bird from concerned Saline residents.

The Saline Police Department and the city’s Department of Public Works have also received calls.

Akerlof said she’d like to help the mute swan, but as a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, she’s in a quandary because of current and proposed state regulations.

If the mute swan is ill and she captures it for rehabilitation, by law she’s required to have its wings “pinioned,” so it can’t fly, and have it neutered — all at her own expense. And she’s not sure what those costs might be.


Residents are concerned about the health of this swan at Mill Pond Park.

Lisa Allmendinger |

Earlier this month, she received a letter from the state saying that if a new law is adopted, rehabilitators will no longer be allowed to help injured mute swans. Instead, the birds must be euthanized to reduce their population. Mute swans compete with native breeding waterfowl such as trumpeter swans, Canada geese and ducks, according to information from the state.

“People call a wildlife rehabilitator to help wildlife,” she said.

The bird center relies on donations for its work, and the center’s 90 volunteers and summer student interns take about 2,000 calls a year. In 2009, they handled 830 birds.

“Rehabbing birds is stressful for the bird and you don’t want to do this unless there’s a pretty good chance that it can be released,” Akerlof said.

Her first call about the swan came Sunday from a resident who was concerned that the bird’s beak was frozen shut. Since then, calls about the swan have included news that the bird was seen eating corn and organic lettuce — food brought by concerned residents.

On Monday, she got a report that the bird had gone into the Mill Pond parking lot, and Thursday, Akerlof received a call that it was spotted at a stop sign near Houghton School.

But most residents don’t know the difference among the common swan species found locally.

“For most people, it’s a white bird and a swan is a swan,” Akerlof said.

In fact, even experts have trouble discerning a young mute swan from other white swans, Akerlof said. But once the bird is older, a mute swan’s beak turns orange.

In the summer, there are usually two pairs of mute swans at Mill Pond Park, she said, but in the winter, these swans tend to head to open water.

According to Barbara Avers, waterfowl and wetlands specialist for the state DNR, mute swans compete with state-threatened common loons and other birds for nesting areas. As the mute swan population has grown, so has the bird’s “level of conflict with humans,” Avers said in a Jan. 24 e-mail. Mute swans are not native to North America, though Michigan has one of the highest populations of the species on the continent. They destroy aquatic vegetation, which feeds native waterfowl and other wetland species, Avers said.

Avers said the state is looking at how to address the mute swan problem, including removing the animals from native habitat. There are an estimated 15,500 mute swans in Michigan. In 2000, there were about 5,400, according to DNR records.

But state regulators and the public sometimes do not see eye-to-eye on the swan issue, Akerlof, the rehabilitator, said.

If the new state regulation is approved by the Natural Resources Commission on Feb. 10, she said, she must follow the rules or risk losing the license she’s had since 1984.

“Perhaps a compromise stance on these swans can be found,” Akerlof said.

As for the Mill Pond mute swan, Akerlof hopes that residents will continue to feed the bird close to the water so it can regain its strength and stay away from the road.

In addition, she hopes that next month’s vote on the swan’s fate can be put on hold while regulators explore other remedies to reduce the population — one that won’t put rehabilitators in the awkward position of telling people to let badly injured mute swans die — or to take them in but face having the animals euthanized.

Lisa Allmendinger is a reporter with She can be reached at For more Saline stories, visit our Saline page.


Lynie Toussaint

Sat, Feb 12, 2011 : 10:27 p.m.

February 12, 2011 I wish that people would find a heart and stop being so hateful about these swans. What in the world is wrong with you people who want to have them killed??? Have you waxed over with so much hate and where are your feelings about nature and life??? It really only goes to show how much hate is actually in this world and yours especially. I feel very sorry for all of you who hate the Swans, you are to be pitied!!!!! Someday, somewhere, somehow, you will have all the hate you send out returning to you over and over again........ Lynie


Sat, Jan 29, 2011 : 6:22 p.m.

Would somebody at please instruct Ms. Allmendinger how to report replies. Whenever I have replied to a comment on one of Ms. Allmendiner's pieces, the comment disappears, yet is listed that I posted it on my profile. What is up with that?


Sat, Jan 29, 2011 : 2:30 a.m.

I'm confused. How does one tell the difference between organic lettuce & non organic?


Sat, Jan 29, 2011 : 5:26 p.m.

Maybe the label. Oh, wait, swans can't read.


Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 4:36 p.m.

If you can Catch them (Male and Female) And if you pin them I WILL GIVE THEM a Home for Life (very large and safe pond) The will be as safe as god can make them They will be fed -- what they need - When they need Please do not destroy them

Kyle D

Thu, Feb 10, 2011 : 5:01 a.m.

They must be neutered as well for this to be a viable strategy

Rork Kuick

Wed, Feb 2, 2011 : 10:03 p.m.

Isn't the article saying that would be illegal, even if you neutered them too?


Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 4:05 p.m.

What ever became of....."All God's creatures, great and small?

Ben Connor Barrie

Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 3:25 p.m.

Mute swans compete with threatened native species. If we want to preserve what we have left of the pre-European-settlement environment in Michigan, we need to divorce our notion of animal cuteness from our desire to preserve natural areas.


Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 3:24 p.m.

Mute Swans are not the only destructive non-native specie of bird. House sparrows and Starlings are two others that reek havoc with native bird nesting success in Michigan. In the case of the latter two, the Michigan DNR allows controlled trapping/euthanizing of them.


Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 3:19 p.m.

Mute swans are a separate and more aggressive species than native trumpeter swans, and they exclude trumpeters, loons (a threatened species), and other waterbirds from their nesting territories in ponds and marshes. They'll also attack people, and the DNRE has received growing numbers of reports of attacks in recent years. The native trumpeter swans were once abundant in the Great Lakes, (Cadillac compared them to lillies among the rushes) but were wiped out by habitat destruction and commercial hunting in the 1800's. There were less than 100 in the US. Now the trumpeters are making a gradual comeback, but in recent decades mute swans have expanded from the east coast (and from releases by humans) and compete for space in our remaining wetlands. Here is a pdf file of the recent DNRE memorandum on mute swans that gives more explanation of why they are a problem: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> here is a DNRE page on the native trumpeter swan: <a href=",1607,7-153-10370_12145_12202-33030--,00.html" rel='nofollow'>,1607,7-153-10370_12145_12202-33030--,00.html</a> All About Birds is a good site with information about all North American bird species. Here is their page about mute swans. They note that it is not true that swans will die if they lose their mate. It's a romantic story, but in fact they will find a new mate the following season. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

Guinea Pig in a Tophat

Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 3:08 p.m.

Thanks so much to Carol and all the volunteers at The Bird Center of Washtenaw County! Last Summer a friend and I brought in a cedar waxwing that we had found on the sidewalk while running. Its wing was broken, and, sadly, the bird didn't make it, but I'm glad to know that it was as safe and comfortable as could be. It's great to read a story about the community helping out an animal like this. Next time I'm around that area I'll remember to bring some corn with me; I never knew swans liked corn!


Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 2:51 p.m.

NO MATTER what you do with this SWAN His or her mate will DIE within a year They MATE for life and you will NEVER change this (Mother nature) You think you can change them You move the SWAN you better find the MATE You will Kill 2 Swans Or that might be what you want to do Just let LIFE BE LIFE Leave the SWAN be (please) If you want to lower the Swan Pop. Then make a open season Don't just ---Well please dont

Kyle D

Thu, Feb 10, 2011 : 4:56 a.m.

This is a common misconception with swans, geese as well as some other birds such as Bald Eagles. While these birds do mate consecutively on a year to year basis, if one bird dies the mate will find another mate if it is capable. If this was two and you could kill two birds with one stone so to say, it would sure save DNR biologists time and money. Thats like having a half-price sale on shotgun shells at your local sporting goods store!!! As for this bird, leave it be. Whatever need people feel to take care of wildlife is usually uncalled for. Lose the attachment people, for the most part wildlife do not need our help to survive, the population is important, not a single bird and especially not when it is a non-native, invading species. Overall, people need to understand that death is a natural process and whether you want this bird to live or not, others will take its place, swan, goose or other.


Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 2:48 p.m.

So what if they compete with Canada Geese?? Bring more in! It would be nice to reduce their population sharply. Gallup Park is a nightmare to walk now.


Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

And our new Gov. Wants a new bridge That will bring more Canada Geese to Michigan But then will they have the money to get across ??? If you dont like to walk around Gallup park THEN RUN real fast


Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 2:29 p.m.

Only in ann arbor could a discussion about bird that is considered non-native to this area become an indictment of white Europeans who came to North America ... Way to stay on topic guys ... Do you really wonder why people outisde this area think Ann Arbor folk are snobs?

Rork Kuick

Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 2:27 p.m.

I've been seeing trumpeters occasionally now, and I'm excited by that, so I am ready to support extirpating the mutes. Let's declare them vermin.


Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 1:25 p.m.

Maybe it is time for the Department of Natural Resources to prioritize the list of destructive elements within the parks? I for one think my fellow humans are far more destructive then any Swan. By the way, not helping the swan now, now that she is ill, constitutes animal cruelty.

Dog Guy

Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 2:19 p.m.

So, Bill, what are you going to do for that sick swan?


Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 1:04 p.m.

I want the Canadian Geese on this list also, as far as I'm concerned the hunting season should be contiguous for them! All the do is eat and Defecate. Must be a health risk or something.

Jorie O'Brien

Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 2:44 p.m.

&quot;All they do is eat and defecate.&quot; Kind of like humans, am I right?


Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 1 p.m.

Kinda reminds me of this, one of the best things ever posted on <a href=""></a>


Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 12:16 p.m.

Every race of homo sapein's emigrated to North America at some point in time. Canada geese are a threat. Thats why there is a very long hunting season with high limits. Perhaps hunters could take care of the mute swan problem at no cost to the taxpayers.


Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 12:13 p.m.

The swan in Mill Pond Park has lived in and along the Saline River for several years. When she was placed there her wings were pinioned. The fact that she cannot fly is the reason she is unable to leave with her mate in the fall. The mate returns each spring and they, with the exception of one year, have had 5-8 cygnets; some of them do not survive the summer season. For example, last year she had 8 cygnets and at the end of the season there were 3. She is very tame and appreciates being brought corn very much.

dading dont delete me bro

Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : noon

could it be the orange beak vs the black beak thingie?!? here: <a href=""></a>

dading dont delete me bro

Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 11:52 a.m.

ok, so school me here... is it because this is a MUTE swan that it's deemed a 'destructive pest' by the DNR, and a non-native species? what bout the swans that were killed (alledgedly?) last summer in scio township? there was a public outrage and investigation regarding that. zeeb rd south of liberty area. help.


Mon, Jan 31, 2011 : 2:41 a.m.

Black-billed swans are rare, but native to North America.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 11:47 a.m.

Mute swans are not native to North America.... coincidentally neither are the &quot;Caucasian Homo sapein's&quot; who imported the swans and have also overran North America competing with and threatening the native homo sapeins


Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 11:43 a.m.

One would think the Canadian geese population was also a threat. Those birds are everywhere now.


Fri, Jan 28, 2011 : 12:25 p.m.

Contrary to the name (it's Canada Geese, not Canadian), they are native to the US as well as Canada. Their population has exploded in recent decades because of reduced predator populations, man-made lakes and ponds, and easy human-provided food sources.