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DNR says several mute swans found dead in Oakland County were not poisoned

Flint-Saginaw-Bay City WJRT logo Flint-Saginaw-Bay City WJRT 5/5/2021 ABC12 News Staff
a swan swimming in a body of water: A pair of mute swans is shown on Lake Michigan at Leelanau State Park in Leelanau County. © David Kenyon A pair of mute swans is shown on Lake Michigan at Leelanau State Park in Leelanau County.

WATERFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WJRT) - The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has ruled out poisoning in the deaths of several mute swans around Maceday Lake in Waterford Township.

DNR wildlife officials have recovered eight dead swans from the lake since January. Residents around the Oakland County lake were concerned that someone may have been poisoning the birds due to their aggressive nature toward humans and other wildlife.

Wildlife biologists with the DNR say the swans actually died from a parasitic flatworm, which is passed to the birds from infected freshwater snails. The flatworm does not affect humans or most other wildlife, but it is known to be fatal for mute swans.

Only three of the eight swans could be tested due to levels of decomposition in the others.

“We can’t say for certain what caused the deaths of the dozen swans that died this past winter at the same location,” said Thomas Cooley, DNR wildlife pathologist. “But with a previous history of this disease on the lake and open water that was available to swans to feed on snails, it is highly likely that those birds died as a result of an intestinal fluke infection.”

The DNR says a bubbler used to maintain open water on Maceday Lake over the winter may have contributed to the swans’ illess.

“Residents on lakes and marinas can legally use bubblers to maintain open water and prevent ice damage to docks and seawalls during the winter,” said Lt. Todd Szyska, the DNR law enforcement supervisor in Detroit. “Other than creating weak ice, bubblers are not dangerous and do not create or spread disease. In this case, the bubblers likely provided the swans an open place to congregate and feed on snails.”

Residents who are concerned about the presence of mute swans, which are an invasive species in Michigan, can request a free permit from the DNR to safely remove nests and eggs from their property. The process must be carried out following state and federal protocols, however.

“Preventing nesting and breeding can alleviate aggressive swan activity in a safe and humane way, but property owners must be proactive,” said Julie Oakes, a DNR wildlife biologist.

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