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Swan song for mute bird removal plan


By Scott Sullivan


A federal and state request to use Saugatuck Township land to assist with mute swan removal was shot down by the township board April 3.

U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife biologist Dusty Arsnoe asked in January about gaining Kalamazoo River access from the township’s River Bluff Park in an effort to remove 50-plus mute swans reported nearby on Tyler Bayou.

The USDA, working with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, supports such efforts claiming the birds are a non-native species that pose a threat by land, sea and air.

Mute swans, say the agencies, crowd out native species such as trumpeter swans, damage aquatic habitats, have attacked humans both in boats and onshore, and pose a strike risk to aircraft.

Arsnoe, claiming some private owners had agreed to grant river access via their land for such an effort, noted using the public park would make access easier. Other state municipalities, he added, have allowed this.

At the Feb. 7 township board meeting, audience members Ron Clark and Dana Migida voiced opposition, Clark called “removal” in fact “a swan slaughter. They pour oil on nests, destroy eggs and kill the live birds with shotguns,” he said.

The board agreed that night Arsnoe’s boilerplate resolution needed more specifics on controls and locations here. Members tabled voting until their next meeting pending receipt of more information from the agencies.

Having heard nothing back from by it next monthly session, the board again tabled action March 7.

April 3? Still nothing back from the agencies, but plenty of local comments.

“I live on the river,” said resident Dick Waskin. “The trumpeters left when the people came. They like unpopulated waters.

“The DNR’s efforts to repopulate public waters with trumpeters is inappropriate,” Waskin went on. “I would say no thank you.”

“Mute swans have been here since the 1820s,” said Clark. “They don’t go on your lawns; geese and ducks do.

“The DNR staged a video in which a kayaker rammed a mute swan’s nest. Of course the mother protected her eggs. Any parent would,” he said.

“Having retired after 45 years as a G.E. engineer, I’ve had time to research this,” said resident Mike McGuigan. “Why are our federal tax dollars going to the DNR to reduce one species and reintroduce another one?

“What good will come from killing off mute swans? It’s a waste of money and time,” he said.

“We asked for two months to hear back from agencies proposing mute swan control and received no response,” clerk Brad Rudich said. “I move we drop this.”

“Can they still go through private land if those owners grant access?” trustee Roy McIlwaine asked

“Yes, they can,” said Rudich.

The board voted 4-0 not to take any action on the proposal and table it indefinitely.

“If they come back, they come back. If they don’t, they don’t,” Rudich said.