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Mute Swan Management & Permits

mute swans in lake

Feeding

People should not feed mute swans. Any feeding of wildlife makes the animals feel safe and encourages them, and the impacts they cause, to remain in the area. If a birdfeeder is available for songbirds and mute swans are in the area, then the area below the feeder could be fenced to prevent swans from accessing the food or the feeder could be removed temporarily. Signs can be installed where swans are present to communicate that feeding of swans is not allowed.

Harassment

Harassment techniques are non-lethal methods used to frighten and discourage mute swans from using a body of water. Harassment will generally send mute swans elsewhere where they will continue to reproduce and have destructive impacts. Different harassment methods can entail audial, visual, and physical techniques as long as local ordinances are followed.

Harassment techniques will only be as effective as the amount of effort employed. Harassment must be used repetitively as soon a mute swans appear on your body of water because they are much more difficult to frighten after they feel comfortable in an area. Also, the effectiveness of harassment greatly decreases if mute swans are fed by people in the area.

The following techniques may be used to harass mute swans, where safe and legal to do so. Check local ordinances and laws before using techniques. No permits are required to use the following harassment techniques.

  • Audial Devices
    • Air horns
    • Whistles
    • Blank pistols
    • Specialized projectiles (bangers, screamers, and whistlers)
    • Cracker shells from a shotgun
    • Firecrackers
    • Propane cannons
  • Visual Devices
    • Predator decoys
    • Scarecrows
    • Handheld lasers
  • Physical
    • Dogs (chasing only)
    • Chase boats
    • Nest destruction (before egg laying)
    • Temporary exclusion methods to discourage use of nesting locations (permits required on public waters)

Permits

Harassment techniques are not a form of mute swan population control but rather send the problem to another area. If harassment techniques are not effective, other options are available for managing mute swan populations.

DNR will issue free permits to lake or homeowner associations to legally take adult mute swans, render eggs incapable of hatching, or destroy nests on public lakes. Resident landowners and tenants do not need a permit from the DNR to take mute swans that are causing damage or posing a health or safety threat to people or domestic animals on land or private water that they own or lease. A permit is also not necessary to harass the birds if the birds are not harmed.

  • Nest and Egg Destruction

    Nest removal, a form of harassment, can be carried out without a permit at any time that no eggs are present. Repeatedly destroying nests can encourage breeding mute swans to relocate, build a new nest, or nest later in the season. It is advisable and most effective to start nest removal as soon as swans are seen scouting nest locations. Nest construction may last for several weeks, and the first egg may be laid less than 24 hours after the nest is constructed. Once the first egg is laid in a nest, no further nest removal action can be taken without first obtaining a permit from Indiana DNR.

    It is against state law for anyone to destroy a mute swan nest that contains one or more eggs without first securing permission through Indiana DNR. For swans on commonly held or shared property, a government authority, lake association or local property owners association should seek a permit through Indiana DNR to destroy nests that have eggs in them. The eggs must be destroyed by individuals approved by the permittee. A permit can only be issued to someone with the legal authority at the given property (e.g., HOA, Property Manager, Parks Director, etc.).

    Once a permit is obtained, egg treatment or nest destruction can occur. Be cautious if attempting to conduct these activities without some form of protection. Mute swans are aggressive during the nesting period and may attack a person who comes close to their nest. When dealing with a nest with newly laid eggs, a person who has obtained a permit may either shake each egg for at least 60 seconds, puncture the large end of the egg with a sharp object, or coat the egg with food-grade corn oil. All these methods, collectively known as addling, will prevent eggs from developing, and they will not hatch. Addled eggs should be placed back into the nest so that the swan will continue to incubate the eggs. If the eggs are removed or broken early in the incubation period, then the swan may re-nest and lay more eggs.

    If eggs are not rendered incapable of hatching through addling, the eggs and nest can be destroyed, but only if they are late in the incubation period. If a nesting mute swan has invested a long period in incubating eggs and they are removed, then she will probably not have the energy to re-nest. Incubation of roughly three weeks may be a long enough period so that new eggs will not be laid. Mute swan egg incubation ranges from 34 to 41 days, so don’t wait too long before destroying eggs.

    If you are unsure how long a mute swan has been incubating eggs, a method to use to help you determine the development of a mute swan egg is the “float test.” Take the eggs and put them in a bucket with at least 6 inches of water. Young eggs that are not well developed will sink. These eggs should be addled or returned to the nest for additional incubation and checked again in another week. Eggs that are further along in development will float. These eggs can be removed, and the adult will probably not re-nest.

  • Removal of Birds

    An aggressive egg destruction initiative will only at best maintain the current mute swan population level. As a result, the ecological damage and the human and wildlife conflicts that mute swans cause will continue. Removing mute swans from where they have established populations is the only way to lessen their impacts.

    Mute swans can be legally taken by a landowner on property or a pond that they own without a permit; however, if the birds are on public waters, then a permit must be secured to lethally take mute swans. Since mute swans are an invasive species, a permit will not be given to trap and relocate the animals elsewhere.

    For swans on public waters, the lake association or local property owners association can seek a permit through Indiana DNR to euthanize the adults (and young if present). The swans must be euthanized by individuals approved by the lake or property owners association. A permit can only be issued to someone with the legal authority at the property in question (HOA, property manager, etc.).

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