Boater who spooked swans didn’t break any laws, says conservation officer

A boater who caused thousands of trumpeter swans to fly away on M'Clintock Bay last weekend didn't break any laws, according to a conservation officer.

A boater who caused thousands of trumpeter swans to fly away on M’Clintock Bay last weekend didn’t break any laws, according to a conservation officer.

Environment Yukon’s Dave Bakica said there is nothing illegal about taking a boat up a navigable waterway, even if it’s in close proximity to wildlife.

“What’s important is the manner in which the boat is moving,” he said.

“There has to be some level of intent there in order to constitute harassment.”

Every spring, thousands of trumpeter swans descend on Marsh Lake as part of their migration.

As of last week, there were almost 2,000 of them. They usually spend a few weeks on the lake resting and feeding before continuing their migration to northern Yukon and Alaska.

And every year, Environment Yukon receives at least one complaint about someone disturbing the swans.

According to section 92 of the Yukon Wildlife Act, a person is deemed to harass wildlife “if the person operates a vehicle or boat in a manner that might reasonably be expected to harass any wildlife,” or if a person attempts to interfere with the movement of any wildlife.

Bakica said that never happened last weekend.

His understanding is the boaters were setting a net nearby on Saturday, and returned to check it on Sunday. When they saw the birds flying away they slowed down and idled along the shore.

It’s not the end of the world for the birds to have to fly away, he added, but it’s not something they enjoy doing.

“They’re burning energy they wouldn’t otherwise be burning,” he said.

“They’re conditioned to be wary of approaching hazards from both the sky and the water. Sometimes they’ll fly away if they see an eagle nearby.”

Bakica said there are signs at the nearby boat launch asking people not to approach the swans, but it’s completely voluntary. Environment Yukon is also asking people not to approach the swans by canoe or kayak, either.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

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