Miller and S’Ville, the two resident swans on Millersville University’s campus, have been a bit aggressive lately.
“It’s typical for this time of year,” says Dr. Aaron Haines, associate professor of biology at Millersville. “The swans can be aggressive to people and to other birds. The most important thing is – don’t feed them.”
The swans, which were purchased from a swan breeder, are glorified pets, according to Haines. Their wings have been clipped so they can’t fly and they are very protective of the pond. “It’s part of their nature to be protective of their nest, which is on the island. I would give them a six-foot buffer.”
“We’ve been practicing social distancing with each other; now it’s time to practice it with the swans,” says Haines.
Haines says the swans don’t have teeth, so won’t break bones or tear your skin, but their bill is serrated and they have been known to nip at people.
“If one is coming at you, the best advice is to get out of its way. Stay clear of them,” says Haines.
Geese can also be aggressive this year, so Haines urges caution around them as well.
Will they mellow out? “With no one around for most of the past year, the swans haven’t had human traffic and they are not habituated to people. As more people come to campus, they’ll get exhausted going after everyone. The pandemic doesn’t totally explain their behavior, but it does likely contribute to it.”
Miller and S’Ville are Mute Swans, native to Eurasia, and were introduced to North America in the 19th century to decorate ponds and lakes. They are known for out-competing native waterfowl species for submerged vegetation. They can grow up to 25 pounds and vigorously defend their nests and nest areas, with no apparent fear of humans.
Facilities has placed signs around the pond. The signs read “Observe but do not disturb the swans – Caution very aggressive.”