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Tuesday, January 26 • 4:40pm - 5:00pm
Invasion of The Mute Swan

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AUTHORS: Michael W Eichholz, Southern Illinois University Carbondale; Dave Luukkonen, Michigan State University; Barbara Avers, Michigan Department of Natural Resources


ABSTRACT: Mute swans were introduced to North America in the mid to late 1800s. Wild populations now exceed 40,000 swans nation-wide with > 15,000 mute swans in the Mississippi Flyway. Mute swan populations can increase by > 10%/year when unmanaged. Mute swans are considered a threat to humans, attacking both adults and children when they approach too close to a nest, causing numerous injuries and killing at least 1 individual. Because of their sedentary behavior and large appetites mute swans tend to have a greater impact on sensitive environments than other waterfowl. Areas that exclude mute swan herbivory have greater below and above ground biomass compared to areas exposed to foraging by mute swans. These results suggest mute swans negatively impact beds of submersed aquatic vegetation, a habitat type that has declined by >80% over the last 100 years. Mute swans may also be facilitating the expansion of exotic submersed aquatic vegetation that is less valuable to wildlife than native vegetation. Because of their large body size and aggressiveness during breeding, mute swans are thought to exclude native waterbirds from high quality habitat, although empirical data regarding the influence of mute swan on interspecific waterbird distribution is inconsistent. Mute swan’s protective status has been controversial with a court ruling in 2001 that mute swans were protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act then a modification to the Migratory Bird Treaty act in 2004 that removed their protective status. Various measures have been taken in attempts to control mute swan populations including relocation and destruction of nests, but, like most long lived species, populations are most influenced by adult mortality, thus direct control appears to be the most efficient alternative. As demonstrated with a case study by Michigan DNR, however, direct control can be politically controversial.

Tuesday January 26, 2016 4:40pm - 5:00pm EST
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