A Discordant Swansong For Mute Swans

Composed and Conducted by the Michigan State DNR
By Karen Stamper

Today, one of my struggles is to save the mute swans. The Michigan DNR is proposing a mute swan management plan that will eradicate nearly the entire population of mute swans in Michigan.

The Michigan DNR claims the swans are non-native; this has never been established. There is evidence showing that they are native: there are drawings and archeological findings which indicate that they are native. Any claim that mute swans are not native to the region is, at best, an unproven conjecture.

The Michigan DNR claims that there are now 15,000 mute swans in Michigan, according to their spring count. This seems incongruous since these swans have been in Michigan for almost 200 years and in the year 2000 the total population was only 5,400. How can the population increase to 15,000 by 2010 notwithstanding construction, boats and jet skis on the lakes, turtles and raccoons that prey on cygnets, and the permitted kill of swans.

The DNR is claiming that the swans are a non-native, invasive species and they are destroying the submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV). They have no factual Michigan based studies to prove this. They are speculating based on other states’ studies and one of the main states is Maryland. The major difference between Maryland and Michigan is that Maryland has NO natural lakes. There are, according to the DNR website, 26,857 inland lakes in Michigan. This does not include the rivers, streams, marshes, private lakes and ponds, lakes under an acre, or retention ponds. We have asked for the Michigan studies that have allegedly been done by the DNR, or any hunting group, and have yet to receive any.

Russ Mason, head of the wildlife division, was asked at the last Natural Resources Commission (NRC) meeting about the studies, and he admittedly said that all states join together and help each other out with studies. You can’t compare Michigan to Maryland. I grew up in Maryland. The Bay was never that clean when I was going there for camp. There are way too many restaurants serving Maryland crabs. The so called fishermen are taking the crabs way too early. It’s the pollution, the fishermen, the industrial runoff, and the large freighters that are affecting the Bay. It’s not the swans. The swans are the scapegoats because they can control them.

Finally, the DNR claims that the mutes are invasive to the loons, the “native” trumpeter swan, and the Canada geese.

According to the DNR website, it’s humans and pollution that cause the demise of the loons. They never once mention the mute swans.

Just a little side Note: Joe Johnson from the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary was given an award by the DNR for introducing the Canada Goose to Michigan. He has now begun bringing eggs from the trumpeter swans in Alaska to Michigan. They place these eggs under the mute swans and have the mutes hatch them. If the trumpeter population becomes as great as they say the Canada goose population is, look out, the hunters will be in their glory.

Most of the groups attending the Mute Swan forum last August were from organizations that had a vested interest in hunting. It also included the Audubon Society, which works closely with federal and state game agencies. In the minutes of the forum meeting, it says that the swans will be killed and dumped in landfills.

The most recent blow to the mutes came on February 10, 2011, The Natural Resources Commission (NRC) voted not to allow the rehabilitators to take in any mute swans. Even though they only take in about 40 swans total in a year, they still voted “no” to let them continue to take care of them. Now when a swan has a fish hook in his beak, or fishing line wrapped around his legs, or has been hit by a jet ski or car, or has been shot, they must be left on the lake or someone’s yard to die. People get prosecuted for animal cruelty in this country, and government agencies should likewise be challenged on their institutionalized animal cruelty. No animal, native or non-native should ever be treated this way.

People should know that the Department of Natural Resources in Michigan, as well as in other states, and the US Fish and Wildlife Services are deceiving the public. They promote hunting, whether to make way for eventual trumpeter swan hunting or just to allow the goose population to continue to rise so they can have longer hunting seasons on them. It is wrong, the facts are not admitted, and it is endangering individual mutes, trumpeters, the geese, and I am sure the ducks as well. We must take a stand and defend our wildlife. We need to be their VOICE!

We have a petition site, http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-the-killing-of-mute-swans-in-michigan#signatures, please help us by signing it and if you know anyone in Michigan please forward the link to them.

Please take note of what is happening to the mute swans and the Canada geese in your state. If enough of us call and write our state reps and senators, maybe we can get the DNR to stop all the killing. We as tax payers should not have to pay for killing these innocent birds. The hunting groups should not be running our Department of Natural Resources. We need to take it back!


Karen Stamper is a photographer and activist. While out in the field, she became aware of injured animals, especially waterfowl, which led her to do animal rescue. In recent years, she has seen first hand how Canada geese and mute swans are treated in Michigan, and throughout the United States. She said, It is my mission now to fight for these birds and give them a voice. Cruelty to any animal should never be accepted in our society, whether it be abuse to an animal by an individual or by our government .

In the next issue of the C.A.S.H. Courier we will publish Ms. Stamper’s personal relationship with Brute, Baby Girl and their two babies, a Canada goose family that was rounded up by the DNR in 2008..


Contact Us

Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting / C.A.S.H.
P.O. Box 562
New Paltz, NY 12561