06/27/2012 08:19 am ET

Mute Swan Killing Policy In Michigan Upsets Animal Rights Activists

A plan by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to cull a type of swan it has labeled an "non-native, invasive species" is creating a controversy among some Michigan activists.

The DNR's goal is to reduce Michigan's mute swan population -- the nation's highest -- from about 15,500 to under 2,000 by 2030. Unlike the endangered trumpeter swan, they have a orange bill, S-shaped neck and are fairly quiet animals.

The DNR says the policy is justified because mute swans attack people; endanger native wildlife such as loons, trumpeter swans, Canadian geese and ducks by chasing them away from their nesting grounds; and destroy wetland habitats by eating and uprooting the plants where they live.

Karen Stamper, the deputy treasurer for southeast Michigan's Commerce Township, is opposed to the plan. She started an online petition to protest the policy over a year ago that has gathered over 3,000 signatures and attracted the support of the Humane Society of the United States. The Detroit Free Press reports that she is calling for a state election to allow citizen to vote on how to handle the mute swan population.

Stamper disputes the DNR's claims that mute swans destroy wetlands and argues in her petition that "there are humane ways to "control" populations and to deter and discourage large waterfowl from settling and nesting in and around our lakes."

Mute swans were brought to North America in the mid-1800s as an ornamental bird to liven up parks and estates. They later escaped and established wild populations in a number of states including Michigan. The DNRs in Ohio, Maryland and Wisconsin have lethal removal policies in place for mute swans.

To view the online petition, visit