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Hunting Accident File > VIOLATIONS > 2006

Man Who Killed Mute Swans Has Permit Revoked By DNR

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 “His permit was revoked last week because he failed to use it properly.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 individual.

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 1970s.

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 shield.

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.

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