Barry County Mute Swans in Trouble

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BARRY COUNTY, Mich. – The mute swan population is in trouble after Barry County Commissioners voted to have them eradicated.

The resolution was passed earlier this month with a 5-2 vote. Ben Geiger, Barry County Commissioner, said that despite the physical beauty of mute swans, they’re an invasive animal. He said they even attack some native species.

“Mute swans are aggressive towards humans, toward other animals and they drain the nutrients out of the lake,” Ben Geiger said.

Geiger said the mute swans also eat up most of the vegetation, making it hard for native species to thrive.

Over the next five years, Geiger said that the Department of Human Resources is working to get the mute swan population in Michigan down from roughly 15,000 to just 2,000. He said they’re the first county to adopt this policy.

Mary Fisher, president of the Barry County Humane Society, and a resident who lives on Leach Lake, said she’s disappointed in their decision.

“I pay taxes to see swans. My contention is, if we rid the lakes of the mute swans we won’t have any swans,” Fisher said.

For almost her entire life, fisher said she’s enjoyed watching the mute swans that come into the lake. Right now, there’s one single family of mutes who live there. Over the years, she said, she’s never ran into any problems with the species. She said she wants the policy to go back to the way it was before the city commissioners changed it. Meaning, authorities were required to have a 70 percent approval rating from land owners before anything could be done to the mute swans.

“We were very, very disappointed with the way our commissioners went ahead and had this resolution,” Fisher said. “It was very ill-conceived.”

The DNR said they now act on complaints from land owners. Saying, once they’ve received a call to action, they conduct an investigation before anything is done to the swans.

According to the DNR, the most effective method in eradicating the species is by a single gunshot to the head. There’s also the option of removing their eggs and nests.

Geiger also said the resolution allows townships to opt out of the effort within 60 days of approval. The townships can also decide which method of eradicating the species, if any, they want to use.

“Because the swans are pretty looking it’s hard to label them ‘an invasive species’ but they are,” Geiger said. “Step way from how pretty they are and they’re very destructive.”

As for Fisher, she said she hopes to be able to look out at the lake she lives on and continue to see the mute swans.

“The swans aren’t a problem…have never been a problem,” Fisher said. “I think our commissioners made a big mistake.”

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