Mute Swans

“What is worse? Eight little swans supposedly chasing away game species or industrial sprawl eating away habitat? Vermont’s wildlife management agency has done nothing about development in the very same area.”

A wonderful article appeared in the Vermont Times, on July 30, 1997 by reporter Gretchen Fryling. It was about the game agencies’ obsession to “manipulate animal populations.”

Mute swans are not considered “native wildlife” although they’ve been here over 100 years. They seem to have no definition or protection at all under any law.

Normally, an animal that successfully establishes itself in an area is considered “naturalized.” That means that, even though the species did not evolve in that territory, it has now found its niche and is successful in maintaining its population in the region. Naturalized and native species are normally considered on the same ecological footing. If we were to remove all naturalized plant and animal species from the continent, there would be very little flora and fauna left. It is not considered good ecological practice to introduce an exotic species into an area, but once the deed is done, more ecological damage is done by ripping it out than by leaving it.

[Editor’s note: By the way, the same game agencies that are calling the mute swan “exotic” introduces exotic pheasants into the environment by the thousands to accommodate hunters! Their ecological argument is a sham.]

The propaganda against the mute swan has begun. Jim Shallow, Executive Director of the National Audubon Society’s regional office in Waitsfield, VT, tells of the problems mutes pose: “They are beautiful birds but an exotic species imported from Europe. We must get past the aesthetics and think about what’s best for the native habitat and wildlife,” says Shallow. “When they nest, they require 10 acres of land and anything that’s in this acreage is subject to attacks. They can run out an entire flock of Canada geese.” [They admit they wouldn’t want that?!] In what can only be termed “Shallow reasoning,” he totally obfuscates the normal distinction between exotic and naturalized species.

There are three other species of swans: trumpeters, whooping, and tundra. The trumpeters are the largest. The waterfowl manager of NYS has some interest in introducing them! Once theyre introduced, it won’t be long before theyll tell us we need to hunt them to control the overpopulation. At the Atlantic Flyway meeting that Wildlife Watch attended in Savannah, GA, the NYS game agent asked the group that wants to teach trumpeters to migrate along the Flyway to “come up with a history of trumpeters in NY.” [He, no doubt, wants to say he is not introducing an exotic species but merely reestablishing an expatriated one.] The group finally dug up a siting of a trumpeter in NY in the 1800s and triumphantly announced it! That siting apparently will be used by the agents to say, “It’s native!” This is a prime example of the pseudo science called “game management” at work!

Jim Shallow of Audubon says, “The mute swan population is expanding rapidly and getting out of control.” He agrees with state game agents that a form of control must be implemented and believes the swans must be eradicated “… short of that there is nothing effective.”

He claims that five mute swans in Maryland that escaped in 1962 are believed to be primarily responsible for an estimated 3000 birds in the area today! [They saw the population growing and didn’t stop it?]

“We need to be aggressive in controlling the population” said a Vermont game agency spokesperson.

It was pointed out that”the species this department is trying to protect are the hunting targets. The bulk of their revenue is derived from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses.” The game agency denies that any money they get is general tax money. “We are not spending taxpayers’ money in studying or controlling the mute swans in Vermont” he said. That is the typical fib that hunters and game agents would have you believe. They claim that income from hunting license fees pay their salaries, and their Pittman-Robertson (excise tax) money pays for their hunting projects. But 25% of Pittman-Robertson money must be matched by the states (out of general funds). Most Pittman-Robertson money comes from collectors and target shooters who don’t hunt (only 25% of all owners of legally owned firearms are hunters). Add to that the administrative support and overhead that general tax money pays for, such as a secretarial staff, rent, phone, electric, printing, supplies, equipment, postage, design, legal department and you see that the hunting fraternity contributes very little to its own programs. The tax dollars we are forced and tricked into paying will not be going to our childrens education or elderly parents health care, but rather to converting our wildlife to living targets.

“Sometimes we have to play god to decide what’s right.” said one game agent.

Adam Oertly won his PR battle in Vermont. According to the Vermont agency, the swans, instead of being killed in Vermont, would be sent to Texas. Where in Texas? They said they couldn’t divulge that information. It was private and the organization didn’t want their identity known. We are quite concerned about that. There is swan hunting in Texas on private canned hunt “ranches.”

Editor’s note: C.A.S.H. created a loophole by which mute swans could be saved from death. When Resolution 25 came up at the Atlantic Flyway — to kill all mute swans–we asked that they at least give the animal protection community the opportunity to find “homes” for the swans that the agents wanted removed from the wild. The Maine flyway representative then asked that they amend the resolution to read “euthanize and/or remove” swans from certain areas. We should ask our game agencies to work with us to place unwanted mute swans. If you would like to work on this project, please e-mail, fax or write C.A.S.H.



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Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting / C.A.S.H.
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