GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Mute swan populations recently swelled on Lincoln Lake, and in the summer the lake association petitioned the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to cull the swans.
Recently, the USDA Wildlife Service - hired by the Property Owners Association of Lincoln Lake (POALL) - shot and killed 52 of the non-native swans. 70 percent of residents signed off on the petition.
"Everybody that signed the petition knew that this was going to happen," said Brenda Lavender-Bailey, the treasurer of the property owners association.
Though Lavender-Bailey said she understands why the birds were killed, she said the sight of it was unsettling.
"We're hearing gun shots and we're seeing swans falling out of the sky. And it was disconcerting to watch that," said Lavender-Bailey. "I personally didn't care to see that myself."
There are an estimated 6,000 mute swans in Michigan -- more than in any other state. The DNR would like to keep the statewide mute swan population to around 2,000.
It is the DNR's policy to shoot mute swans, an invasive European bird, when they're overpopulated on state land. Mute swans reproduce well and cause problems for native Michigan loons and trumpeter swans because they are aggressive and compete for nesting spaces.
On Lincoln Lake, the mute swan population can swell to well over 100, and many residents along the water have experienced their aggressive nature first hand.
"We were going through the channels and a swan come right up and hit a lady right in the back of the head -- just about knocked her out," said Lavender-Bailey.
"It's an unfortunate situation that we have to deal with it this way. No one likes to shoot swans. They're big pretty birds," said John Niewoonder of the DNR. "They are aggressive. They cause lots of issues with people and wildlife, so they need to be kept at a reasonable level."
The swans cannot be used for food, buried, or placed in landfills in the state of Michigan.
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