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Mute Swan Questions & Answers

Mute swans in lake

  • What is so bad about mute swans?
    • Mute swans destroy underwater aquatic plants as they forage and wetland vegetation during nesting that would normally be available for native waterfowl and wildlife. These aquatic plants are important because they help preserve water quality, and native fish and other aquatic animals require these plants for cover and as nursery habitat for their young. The aquatic plants are also habitat for invertebrates that serve as food for fish, birds, and other animals. Reduction in these native plants due to mute swans can cause population declines in fish and other wildlife.
    • Mute swans are one of the most aggressive waterfowl species and can injure or displace native wildlife; they have also been known to directly kill the young of other species. Adult mute swans may become especially aggressive toward people and pets in areas where they have become accustomed to food handouts. During nesting and rearing of young, they often drive off people, pets, and other waterfowl that enter their territories. Mute swans have even knocked people from their boat and drowned them.
  • But don’t mute swans keep geese away?
    • No. Mute swans may keep a single pair of geese off a pond for a short time, but geese often occupy the same bodies of water as mute swans. Furthermore, mute swans come with their own problems. They are larger and more aggressive than Canada geese, and they cause more environmental damage.
  • What can I do about mute swans?
    • The DNR will issue free permits to lake associations to legally take adult mute swans, render eggs incapable of hatching, or to destroy nests on public lakes. Resident landowners and tenants do not need a permit from the DNR to legally take mute swans that are causing damage or posing a health or safety threat to people or domestic animals on their own land.
    • Use harassment techniques. Harassment must be used frequently if chosen as a site-specific management strategy. On a broad scale, control methods, such as harassment, relocation, and sterilization, have not proven to be effective. Mute swans that have been relocated and harassed will cause the same problems in a new location and will reproduce elsewhere. Sterilization is cost-prohibitive, causes undue stress on the animal, and those animals will continue to negatively affect habitat and native wildlife.
    • Do not feed mute swans because doing so will encourage mute swans to remain in the area. Be mindful of incidental feeding, an example of which is spillage from birdfeeders.
  • What is the legal status of mute swans?
  • If I have mute swans on my private pond or property owned by me that are attempting to nest, have hatched young, or are aggressive, what can I legally do?
    • On your personal property, you may harass the birds, destroy nests, and legally take mute swans without a permit from Indiana DNR. If swans are on public water adjacent to your private property, permits must be secured to lethally remove the birds; however, they can be harassed without a permit if the mute swans are not harmed.
  • Mute swans are nesting on public water, so what can be done?
    • Nests can be destroyed prior to eggs being laid, when no permit is needed. Once eggs are in the nest, then a permit through the Indiana DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife must be obtained before disturbing the eggs.
  • There are aggressive mute swans defending nests and/or young on the public water that I live on or visit. What are the options to remove the adults (and young, if present)?
    • In situations in which mute swan aggression is not resolved by removing the nest and eggs or harassing the adults, you should work with the lake association or local property owners association to seek a permit through the Indiana DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife 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 to represent lake and property owners on the property in question (e.g., HOA, Property Manager, etc.).
  • I have mute swans on my property or on the public water where I live/recreate. Can the swans be trapped and relocated to another location?
    • No. Permits can be obtained for mute swan nest destruction or to euthanize the mute swans on public waters; however, since mute swans are an invasive species, a permit will not be given to trap and relocate them elsewhere.

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