Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 21, 2013

Editorial: Swan song

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — The bad-ending vibe was pretty strong early on, when some residents of Grand Traverse County’s Silver Lake fretted that a big — and to many, regal —presence vanished from their lake.

A male mute swan that called the lake home for years suddenly was nowhere to be seen, nowhere near his mate and offspring, a major out-of-character performance for an individual bird and species known to be extremely family oriented.

Swan devotees and nature lovers alike worried that something had happened to the huge bird, especially after he’d lashed out at several people, including a child, as they recreated on Silver Lake.

Alas, state Department of Natural Resources officials on Thursday—after previously dodging calls from a Record-Eagle reporter and lakefront residents — finally acknowledged the truth: a wildlife officer shot and killed the swan July 13 after the DNR fielded several complaints about the bird’s aggressive behavior.

Mute swans are considered an invasive specie in Michigan, apparently akin to zebra mussels in some eyes, and the DNR typically doesn’t shed a tear when they have a chance to trim their population. Frankly, they can’t and shouldn’t be blamed for killing the swan because it appears the bird certainly posed a threat to some lake denizens, particularly those who care to ply the waters with personal watercraft.

But the shame of this situation is that the swan seems to have taken an instinctively aggressive turn to protect its family only after being targeted for harassment by imbeciles on personal watercraft. Sadly, a segment of our society derives some enjoyment from bullying people or animals, and such doltish behavior effectively earned the Silver Lake swan a death sentence.

The swan’s tormentors ought to be ashamed, but that’s probably expecting too much of them.