BY TERESA SMITH, Times-Union Staff Writer
NORTH WEBSTER – The 10 mute swans killed on Backwater Lake last week
were not a nuisance, according to Linnea Petercheff, Indiana Department
of Natural Resources operations staff specialist.
Backwater and Webster lakes residents are outraged by the taking of
the swans and even more concerned when the hunter presented a state
permit to hunt the birds.
“The individual I’m aware of took 10 swans,” Petercheff said. “His
permit was revoked last week because he failed to use it properly. He
was not on or near the person’s property where he had the complaint. We
don’t believe the swans were a nuisance at the time he took them.”
Petercheff did not say whether any action would be taken against the
Until a couple of years ago, mute swans were protected by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Introduced to the U.S. from Britain in the mid-1800s, mute swans are
considered exotic species. The first birds were spotted in Indiana in
the 1950s. The first breeding pair to settle here were identified in the
In 2005, Kyle Hupfer, Department of Natural Resources director,
authorized an emergency rule to allow homeowners and licensed nuisance
wild animal control operators to kill mute swans that are causing, or
threatening to cause, damage to property, or that are posing a health or
safety threat to persons or domestic animals.
“They overgraze aquatic vegetation and don’t leave enough habitat for
native animals,” Petercheff said. “We’re responsible for protecting our
wildlife species from the threats of exotics.”
The birds can be shot at any time of the year in accordance with
local ordinances. Permits for homeowners and licensed wild animal
control operators are free.
Mute swans are 50 to 60 inches long from bill to tail and have a
wingspan of 8 to 12 feet. They’ve established nesting grounds and
territory across the U.S.
The birds have a black knob, lower bill and legs. The upper bill is
orange. The lack of a basal knob on the upper bill stretching to its
forehead is the best distinctive feature of the mute swan.
The mute swan holds its neck curved while swimming, bill bending
down. It can be often seen to hold its wings up above the back like a
The trumpeter swan, Cygnus buccinator, and the tundra swan, Cygnus
columbianus, are considered native species. They both have black bills,
legs and feet.
The trumpeter swans are slightly larger than tundra swans. It is very
difficult to tell the two species apart. At close range, a small yellow
mark at the base of the beak, close to the eye, can be seen on the
tundra. There is no such mark on the trumpeter swan.
Intentional releases in Michigan are believed responsible for
Indiana’s mute swan populations, along with escapes from waterfowl
hobbyists and landowners. Mute swans are aggressive birds that often
drive native waterfowl from wetlands. They can be hostile toward humans.
Pairs will defend an established breeding territory often with
extreme aggression toward intruding swan. Unlike mute swan, however,
aggression in wild trumpeters toward humans is rare.