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Lake Association annual meeting dominated by swan discussion

BY TINA BOSSE
   (6-23-15) The Hamilton Lake Association held its annual meeting last Saturday, June 20th, before approximately 60 people. Indiana Conservation Officer Jim Price appeared and addressed the room on a variety of topics and answered a number of questions.
   The recent social media debate on Facebook relating to mute swans on Hamilton Lake was immediately addressed by Price. “The biggest issue we have down here is (mute) swans,” stated Price. Price recognized that there are two separate factions when it comes to how the population is controlled.
   While the aggressive nature of the swans is a concern, it is secondary to the biological impact a large population of mute swans will have on a lake. Price advised they are very hard on all of the wildlife and a large population can actually create water quality issues because they defecate in the lake. One adult swan eats eight pounds of vegetation a day, and it is vegetation that is needed by the wildlife natural to the area.
   While appreciative of the beauty of the swans, Price made it very clear that mute swans are not native to the United States and are very hard on the ecology. An audience member asked Price if there was an acceptable number of mute swans to have on the lake, to which Price replied, “Ideally, zero. We don’t want any.”
   The manner of population control was discussed, and Price informed the audience that free permits are given out through the DNR that allow the culling of the swans. Concerns of mistaking mute swans for native trumpeter and tundra swans was eased when Price described mute swans as being easily identified by their unique orange beaks.
   When asked if there are alternatives to culling, Price replied, “Nothing as humane as shooting; it’s quick and clean.” Eggs can be smashed, but the swans just lay more. Coating the eggs with oil is an option as the swans will continue to sit on them. However, this process presents a danger to the person approaching the nest. Board president Janet Albright advised that members have tried to oil the eggs but were turned back by the highly aggressive swans. Albright did say that volunteers were welcome to contact the board if they would like to attempt to oil the eggs themselves.
   “The problem is, they’re so darn pretty, and people get attached to them,” said Price, who then described recent Facebook postings that threatened DNR officers as examples of passionate responses to the culling of the mute swans. Questions along the lines of Why don’t we just shoot the DNR? or, Who would come up with an idea like this? and comments along the lines of Let’s shoot the DNR who came up with the idea were a few postings shared by Price. 
   “People don’t educate themselves before they stand for something,” stated Price.
   An audience member stated there should have been more information sharing by the association informing the public of the dangers the mute swans bring from an ecological standpoint. The board advised that information relating to the mute swans is available on the Hamilton Lake Association website.
   Price encouraged people to do internet searches on mute swans to help understand the dangers they bring to local ecology. “They’re not supposed to be here,” concluded Price.
   The meeting continued after Price’s departure with a theme of “protect and prevent.” Pat Morello advised membership is up; however, only 13 percent of businesses are members of the association. The board is attempting to work more closely with the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce in hopes of bringing more businesses into the association.
   Questions arose relating to the yellow membership flags that the association has made available this year. An audience member questioned just who was entitled to purchase a flag. The board advised the flag is available to those who pay membership dues and weed spray fees, as well as the cost of the flag. It was unclear by some whether the flag was intended to replace the stickers that were distributed to members in previous years.
   The whole purpose of the flags is to drive awareness and peer pressure,” stated Morello. “Use the flags for their intended purpose,” which is to spread the word and get people to join, he said. The board will review their flag policy and make any necessary clarifications.