Mute swan showdown: Genoa Township under fire for move to remove birds – Detroit Free Press

Animal rights activists are targeting the Genoa Township Board of Trustee’s Monday meeting to protest what they contend is a planned “swan massacre.” 
Noting that the birds — an invasive species in Michigan — have become a “problem” and are attacking residents, township officials approved a resolution last month that allows for the mute swan population to be removed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. 
According to the DNR, mute swans are an invasive species that endanger wildlife, destroy wetland habitats and threaten humans. Mute swans are not to be confused with trumpeter swans, which DNR say are a quieter and less aggressive species.  
“If we do nothing, the damage and conflicts mute swans create across the state will have long-term effects,” a DNR document says.  
Others say there’s no evidence that mute swans are harmful. 
“There has never been any environmental impact assessment, a scientific, reliable, valid environmental impact assessment ever in the United States,” said Sheila Bolin, CEO of the Regal Swan Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the safety and science of swans.
Bolin said the truth is actually quite the opposite of what the DNR says, and that mute swans benefit the environment because they are sentinel species that detect environmental hazards. 
“Especially in Michigan, with all the problems with Flint water and everything else, I would be very, very cautious about killing a sentinel species, of letting something know that there’s something in the environment that’s going wrong,” Bolin said. “Because we all know what happens when we don’t have a warning system.” 
The Genoa Township Board of Trustees passed a resolution on July 19 that allows residents to petition the DNR for permits to remove the mute swans.  
The DNR website clarifies that hunting mute swans is not allowed but the population can be controlled through permits that remove the swans and their nests and eggs.
Board Supervisor Bill Rogers said during the meeting that “all lakes in Genoa Township would be under this resolution and it would be up to the people who live on the lakes to contact the DNR for a permit.”
Rogers told WHMI they put up the resolution in the first place because the township received multiple calls about people getting attacked by the swans.  
The DNR declined to comment further than sharing the link to their website on mute swans. 
This is not the first time a local government has attempted to eradicate the mute swan population. 
A similar resolution passed, and then was rescinded after pushback, in West Bloomfield in 2012.  
New York attempted to get rid of all the mute swans in the state in 2014, but the effort was ultimately blocked by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo.  
The In Defense of Animals organization claims it’s the humans that are a threat to the swans in their natural habitat and that’s why they’re attacked, not the other way around. 
In Defense of Animals and is hosting a protest with Genoa Township residents to fight against the resolution on Monday at 5:30 p.m. outside the Genoa Township Municipal Office 
“Mute swans have been, for a number of years, categorized as invasive species,” said Lisa Levinson, campaign director for In Defense of Animals. “And because of that, they are subject to being slaughtered and killed across the country. And there’s some debate as to the authenticity of that original determination, there really aren’t scientific studies to back up the reasoning for it.” 
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Levinson said she hopes the protest sparks a reconsideration and eventual rescinding of the resolution.  
“This is an issue that is maybe new to some people there in terms of the seriousness of it, and we also feel that people may not realize the true devastation this could cause,” she said.  
Contact Emma Stein: estein@freepress.com.

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