Residents along Hamilton Lake debate future of swans

HAMILTON, Ind. (AP) — The wakeboarders and Jet Skiers of summer have gone.

Now, on most days, Hamilton Lake sports a fishing boat or two; maybe some ducks and Canada geese.

Photo: J. Mosesso/NBII
Photo: J. Mosesso/NBII

There are a few mute swans, too. However, the swan population was thinned this year after a Woodburn man acquired an Indiana Department of Natural Resources nuisance wild animal control permit Jan. 12. It expires at the end of the year and was issued expressly for the taking of adult and juvenile mute swans on Hamilton Lake and property on and adjacent to the lake, with landowners’ permission.

Hamilton Lake Association President Janet Albright asked that the permit holder’s name not be published, due to controversy surrounding the issue, saying death threats had been left on a Hamilton Lake Facebook site.

Both Albright and Fritzi Nodine — of Hamilton Lake’s new chapter of Save the Swans — say they would like to come to an agreement as to how the majority of Hamilton Lake residents would like to handle what the DNR calls an invasive species. Both the association and Save the Swans have done a lot of research on swans, their habits and their effect on lakes populated by humans.

“We’ve talked about it at every meeting,” said Albright. She said two board members reported personal stories: one who was attacked by a swan while riding a Jet Ski and the other whose grandchildren were threatened by a swan. Another board member who holds a permit to oil Canada goose eggs — an approved population control method for that species — reported seeing a nest filled with swan eggs — a sign that the population would continue to grow.

Albright, who has lived in Hamilton for 30 years and resides at the lake year round, said the swan population last year had swelled to around 50 birds.

In an infographic posted on the DNR’s web site, it says mute swans are “dangerous and aggressive — known to attack people and pets.” It also says that they remove beneficial native plants and kill ducklings.

“We’ve been trying to determine the validity of the DNR’s claims,” said Nodine. Save the Swans has aligned itself with the Humane Society of the United States, and is getting behind other swan schisms that are making their way into the spotlight in New York, Michigan and other states.

It is believed mute swans were introduced to the United States in the 1800s by European settlers. They mate for life, according to research, and live for around 30 years.

“The mute swans find a spot and make it their home,” said Nodine.

According to the DNR information sheet, the population of mute swans in Indiana rose from around 1,200 in the spring of 2012 to 2,300 in the summer of 2012. The infographic clearly states that the DNR is not in favor of swans, stating, “Don’t be misled by their beauty, they are bad for us, water quality and wildlife.”

Federal protection for the mute swan was removed from the Migratory Bird Treaty Reform Act in 2004. Maryland, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin have enacted swan control programs. Michigan has the largest mute swan population in the United States, estimated at 15,500 birds in 2010.

Nodine said the swan population on Hamilton Lake remained relatively stable over the past several years, until this year, when almost all of them were killed.

Albright said there were no swans on Hamilton Lake until around five years ago. She said for the past three years, the lake association has been looking for a solution to the aggressive birds and the potential e coli problem from the birds’ feces in the lake.

There are around 500 members of the association of the around 1,000 Hamilton Lake residents. Albright said approximately 60 people attended the annual meeting in June.

“We would like to have input on how we can, one, keep the swan population under control and also how to deal with aggressive swans,” she said. “We didn’t realize there would be such an outcry.”

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Source: Angola Herald-Republican, http://bit.ly/1jEdlMH

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Information from: Herald Republican, http://www.heraldrepublicanonline.com/

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