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What can you do about an aggressive swan at Children’s Lake in Boiling Springs?

When visitors come to Children’s Lake for Saturday’s Foundry Day in Boiling Springs, they might notice that something is missing from the lake — geese.

And a direct and indirect reason for the smaller number of geese this year is a new swan.

The swan showed up during the winter, and residents have reported that the swan is aggressive toward geese and particularly their goslings. Videos or simply a trip to the lake show the swan chasing geese out of the water and sometimes following them across streets. In an effort to escape the swan, some geese have been hit by cars on First Street, and others did not escape. One resident reported seeing a disembowled gosling that the swan had been following earlier that day.

When it comes to what can be done with the swan, however, the answers are varied depending on location and type of swan.

According to the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, though the commission owns the lake, the waterfowl are under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Game Commission. And the game commission’s usual golden rule is to stay away from wildlife.

The commission said removing a wild animal from its natural setting can be harmful to both people and wildlife, with wildlife potentially losing their natural fear of humans and being unable to live normally again in the wild. And people could contract diseases or parasites from wild animals. Under state law, it is illegal to take or possess wildlife from the wild, and the penalty for such a violation is a fine of up to $1,500 per animal.

The question of what to do with this particular swan at Children’s Lake gets more complicated because of the type of swan it is.

The Boiling Springs swan fits the bill of a mute swan, which are considered to be an invasive species and are not protected under state or federal law, according to the game commission. While trumpeter swans and tundra swans are protected, mute swans are allowed to be hunted.

According to the Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage, mute swans are known for highly territorial behavior during breeding season and competing with other native wildlife. The organization said some mute swans attempt to displace other native waterfowl by killing adult and juvenile ducks and geese, and in one case in Maryland, a flock of mute swans caused two groups of birds to abandon the nesting colony by trampling the nests, eggs and chicks.

The organization said mute swans tend to only be aggressive toward people when they perceive a threat near their nesting areas or young, though mute swans who learn to expect food from people may become aggressive in seeking food.

The Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage suggests options on how to get mute swans to leave, but most — removing vegetation and nesting material, using frightening devices or installing an electric fence or surface covers — wouldn’t work on Children’s Lake, especially with other waterfowl present. Mute swans also leave when ponds freeze over, but Children’s Lake remains an open water source year round.

There had been local efforts to attempt to humanely relocate the swan elsewhere, but those plans have fallen through.

The organization recommends that if relocation happens, the swan should be surgically sterilized to inhibit reproduction to prevent the population of mute swans from exploding in the relocated area.

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Email Naomi Creason at ncreason@cumberlink.com or follow her on Twitter @SentinelCreason