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Nuisance Species: Mute Swans

Mute swans are commonly seen on large public lakes and are widespread throughout Ohio. They are considered a non-native invasive species in the United States and are becoming a nuisance here in Ohio. There are three species of swans that can be found in Ohio: The native trumpeter swan, tundra swan (or whistling swan, which only migrates through Ohio) and the mute swan. Mute swans will outcompete with the threatened trumpeter swan on Lake Erie marshes and other locations for nesting habitat.

During the breeding and nesting season, which generally runs March through May, adult mute swans become highly territorial and will fight to push native birds out of their nesting area. Mute swans have been known to attack humans and pets during this time as well. This aggressive behavior also occurs after the young, called cygnets, hatch out. On public lakes, people who use jet-skis and kayaks tend to get flogged by swans if they get too close to their nest or young. The adult male will fly after what they see as a predator to chase it away and use their wings to attack. They have been known to drown people on rare occasions.   

An adult male swan can weigh up to twenty-six pounds and stand as tall as five feet. Mute swans can consume up to eight pounds of submerged aquatic vegetation in one day. They uproot the whole plant usually leaving nothing behind. This takes away natural habitat from fish and leaves little food source for native waterfowl. The removal of aquatic vegetation can also cause water quality issues and erosion problems. 

The Division of Wildlife controls mute swans on public lands by utilizing egg addling to cut back on production and by physical removal of adult birds. Occasionally, complaints are received from homeowners who surround public lakes when mute swans are being aggressive. Removal of the bird is the action taken when human safety is a factor.  

Contrary to what most people believe, mute swans will nest next to Canada geese. Homeowner associations or golf courses will purchase swans for goose control. Ultimately the swans will eventually become a problem for the homeowners around the ponds because of aggression issues and removal is warranted. We encourage private landowners who chose to have mute swans to keep them controlled. The ways to control them is to only purchase one swan or two of the same sex and keep their wings clipped or pinioned. This will keep the swan on the owner’s property. Landowners can also addle the eggs so cygnets do not hatch out. If the young are going to be allowed to hatch out, their wings need to be clipped or pinioned as well so they cannot leave the property. Division staff will assist private landowners who ask for removal of mutes by giving technical assistance or removing the swans depending on site-specific circumstances. 

The Ohio Division of Wildlife has come up with an action plan to deal with nuisance mute swan issues.