Thursday, May 08, 2003

What’s Up With Mute Swans?

There’s no doubt that Mute Swans are beautiful birds that evoke special emotions in many people. But it is also true that Mute Swans are not native to North America. Mute Swans were not known in North America until the 1880’s or 1890’s when they were first introduced to a few large private estates in New York. The simple truth is that Mute Swans are out of place in North American wetland ecosytems. In fact, in many of the areas where they have been established the longest, places like the Mid-Atlantic region (Connecticut to Maryland) and the Great Lakes States, they are considered to be invasive (i.e., harmful to native plants and wildlife).

Mute Swans have the distinction of being the only invasive species in the United States that is protected by Federal law. In December 2001, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the Mute Swan is subject to the protective prohibitions of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. But using its managment authority under the MBTA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has started issued depredation permits to those States that wish to undertake measures to control the growth of Mute Swan populations. The most aggressive State to date has been Maryland. In April, the Governor of Maryland announced his intention to implement a Mute Swan Management Plan that calls for the elimination of at least 3,000 of Maryland’s 4,000 Mute Swans.

Prompted by Maryland’s announcment, the Swans in the News blog was started with the aim of chronicling online news stories about the Mute Swan and efforts to control its population in the United States.

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