Editor’s Note: A proposal by the New York State Department of Conservation to eliminate the swan population on Long Island and throughout the state by 2025 has, predictably, rubbed some people the wrong way, including the Regal Swan Foundation, a Florida-based nonprofit that advocates humane treatment of swans. The Regal Swan Foundation reached out this week to explain why they think the DEC’s plan is wrong and why the reasoning behind it is groundless.
We have just learned that the DEC of New York plans to kill every Mute Swan in the state by 2025. The killing of Mute Swans is not only taking place in New York, but also Michigan, Arkansas, Maryland, Pennsylvania and other states.
The Mute Swan was named by the U.S. government as the International Symbol of World Peace in the 1970’s. Isn’t it ironic that New York, home of the United Nations, promoter of world peace is now trying to kill this International Symbolic Peace species, the entire species! This is going to be an international embarrassment not only for New York State, but also the U.S. government.
The killing of mute swans across the U.S. is the most despicable excuse for killing a WHOLE SPECIES based upon monetary gain and complete disregard for sound environmental management practices. The real reason that the Mute Swans are being culled is that at present, there is no Trophy Waterfowl for hunters. This is the main reason that states maintain the reason behind the culling is to reintroduce the Trumpeter Swan. So, let’s look at what this culling of the Mute Swan and possible “reintroduction” of the Trumpeter Swans truly means. If a state can raise its coffers by selling permits to kill the Mute Swans, many hunters will pay for the permit and thus, monies will be collected on behalf of the state. State wildlife monies are now seeing tremendous budget cuts.
In 10 years, the Trumpeter Swans will override a habitat and then a true “Trophy Waterfowl” will be available for a much more expensive license since the Trumpeter Swan is the largest swan species and even larger waterfowl species. The misinformation about the Mute Swans chasing other waterfowl and acting aggressive is actively fostered by individuals wanting to promote this killing. We have studied swans for many years, specifically the Mute Swans, with some of our veterinarians having over 40 years of experience in the Mute Swan’s care.
We have learned that the Mute Swans are a sentinel bird in alerting problems within the environment, that they are not aggressive, but rather territorial as any other swan, bird or wildlife species will be when their habitat, nests, and families are threatened. The Mute Swan was the first species of waterfowl to alert us that bacteria was attacking and degrading their feathers. The bacteria responsible for the feather degradation has been actively researched by The Regal Swan Foundation for the past 10 years. In the past 7 years, we have begun seeing feather degradation in other swan and waterfowl species such as grebe, egret, heron, ibis and white pelican. In fact, we will be presenting our findings next month at the International Swan Symposium in Easton, Maryland, February 6th.
Had it not been for the Mute Swan, we would not have been able to research this bacteria, pioneer the use of two vaccines to mitigate swan deaths from Botulism and West Nile Virus, or discovered a subspecies of protozoa that could be researched. The Genus of protozoa responsible for the costly medical care and disfigurement of humans in polluted water habitats was better studied because of the Mute Swan. In fact, it is the Mute Swan that possibly holds the key in its immune system to prevent the disfiguring and even deadly cyst in humans caused by the protozoa, Rhinosporodium seeberi.
As far as aggressiveness or territorialism, Trumpeter Swans will seriously injure if not kill a Mute Swan, not the other way around. We have worked with all species of swans. If there is a truly aggressive swan, it would be the Black Swan species which are extremely territorial. We have also heard of “research” stating that a Mute Swan eats approximately 8 lbs of aquatic vegetation daily, defecating and ruining the habitat. What is the excuse going to be when the Trumpeter Swan (which eats approximately 20 lbs of aquatic vegetation daily), begins to defecate and starts ruining the environment along with other waterfowl and wildlife? Research in many areas state that the main causative agent for the pollution of many waterfowl habitats is not based upon wildlife, but on humans. Run-off from animal farm wastes, pesticides, fertilizers and other pollutants can seriously decrease the amount of lemon grasses and other necessary aquatic vegetation. Then, we have heard that because of the Mute Swan’s long neck, it is able to reach into aquatic grasses and strip the grass from muck. This stripping removes lemon grasses and other aquatic vegetation for other waterfowl species. FACT: A Trumpeter Swan has a longer neck, so what is going to happen when it begins to access these same grasses?
COMMON SENSE. Swans and waterfowl can be blamed for the demise of aquatic vegetation, but the major issue is pollutants and run-off. Until these two problems are controlled, killing of any species will not resolve the return or general health of aquatic vegetation.
What is even much more disturbing is that most of the swans are on public lands. This means that the TAXPAYER is footing the bill for the states and federal government to destroy a species of wildlife that the TAXPAYER basically has the right to enjoy not only currently, but for future generations. Some researchers state that the Mute Swan is native and were quietly removed from the Federal Migratory Act several years ago so the culling could be instigated. NO GENERAL TAXPAYER comment was allowed, nor were they notified that the removal was to take place.
Other researchers state that the Mute Swan was here since the 1800’s. How long does a species have to be in the U.S. before it is safe from killing? This killing is allegedly being conducted by state and federal wildlife representatives sneaking into the night and decapitating the birds (totally inhumane) after federal injunctions were imposed to stop shooting the birds. The swan’s cygnets (baby birds) are stomped to death. Who is paying for this despicable act? The TAXPAYER!
The DEC of New York states it will either kill or capture the swans. Look at how well this worked in other states. Copious amounts of Taxpayer monies have been spent on trying to kill and control flocks, but the flocks fly. For how long is this killing going to continue? It is estimated for the next 10 years. Has anyone thought about how the state of New York and other states implementing this arbitrary killing will impact other states and their swan and waterfowl populations? What if a contiguous state does not want the killing? How are they going to protect their migratory swan population or their swans that happen to cross the state line? What is the cost per bird, per day, week, month or year that this killing is going to cost the Taxpayer? What if it does not work, how does the Taxpayer recoup their loss for monies that could have been generated and used for other more responsible and efficient means of wildlife management?
The euphemism to “capture” is the same as killing. In Maryland, when protests mounted to the killing it was suggested that the swans could be chemically sterilized by an ornithologist, Bill Sladen. No one wanted to try this means. It would as they say, be too costly. What is the price of a life or a species of wildlife if you truly are there for the protection of the environment? Furthermore, there was a swan breeder, Bob Knox, one of the largest swan breeders in North America who intervened and wanted to take at least 500 swans from Maryland, paying for their transportation and pinioning. What happened? The birds were killed because the state did not want to take the time and resources needed to capture. What do you think is going to happen in New York regarding the capture of the swans vs killing them?
Another issue is the pinioning of the swans. Before the swans can be released to their various “private captured settings”, they must be pinioned. This is the surgical amputation of a portion of the wing so that the birds cannot fly from their setting and re-start another feral population. The pinioning is a very difficult procedure for older birds, many may not survive because they must be placed on anesthesia. A licensed veterinarian is required to perform the procedure. WHO is going to pay for the pinioning and other veterinary care after capture and eventual release to a captive setting? The TAXPAYER who will not be able to enjoy the birds because they are now deemed captive wildlife. In large settings that monies cannot be found to continue the veterinary care and general maintenance, the swans will be eventually killed in these “private settings” because the TAXPAYER will not be able to monitor the number of birds surviving or actually euthanized. Allegedly, some veterinarians and wildlife rehabilitation personnel and facilities have already been told not to help or save injured or sick Mute Swans so that the birds can be killed or die. So, capture will ultimately be the eventual death sentence for the swans.
TAXPAYERS have spent millions of dollars supporting the efforts of state and federal wildlife authorities to bring back “endangered species” only to have these same species placed on hunting permits when they override the environment. Examples are the alligators, wolves and black bears. In fact, the Dept. of Agriculture and Fish & Wildlife Services are the two most powerful, yet most under regulated sections of the U.S. government. A new documentary called “EXPOSED, USDA’S SECRET WAR on WILDLIFE is provided by the organization Predator Defense. In fact, Senior U.S. Congressman from Oregon, Peter Defazio, (D), states in the documentary that the “Wildlife Services is one of the most opaque and least accountable agencies that he knows of”.
When does it end? Today. It is time for the taxpayer to say enough is enough. Monies could be better spent on the clean-up of polluted waterways, preserves and other sensitive waterfowl habitats instead of wasting 10 years trying to kill a species that has been here forever or at least for centuries. History has shown that such culling only causes future problems when another species overruns the environment. Human meddling in natural wildlife behaviors, encroachment and pollution are the true problems. Let’s mitigate these problems before trying to find a problem that does not exist while creating a bigger problem for the future. If the Mute Swan species is allowed to be completely eradicated from the U.S., which species will be next?
It is the position of the Regal Swan Foundation, Inc.,
The arbitrary complete eradication of the Mute Swan species or any other wildlife species
SHOULD NOT BE CONDONED, ENDORSED OR CARRIED OUT BY ANY STATE.
FURTHER RESEARCH SHOULD BE MANDATED TO UNDERSTAND THE TRUE BASIS FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF AQUATIC VEGETATION INCLUDING ANIMAL WASTES, PESTICIDES, FERTILIZERS AND OTHER RUN-OFF POLLUTANTS.
A TRUE ACCOUNTING OF THE ACTUAL COST OF THIS KILLING PER SWAN PER YEAR BE MADE AVAILABLE TO THE TAXPAYER.
A TRUE ACCOUNTING OF WHAT OTHER MEANS OF WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT MIGHT BE IMPOSED AND THEIR COSTS.
A TRUE ACCOUNTING OF WHO WILL BE RESPONSIBLE IF THIS KILLING DOES NOT WORK AND HOW TAXPAYER MONEY AND THE MUTE SWAN SPECIES IS TO BE RECOUPED? HUNTING PERMITS SHOULD NOT BE USED IN THIS EQUATION.
MORE OVERSIGHT AND REGULATION SHOULD BE PLACED ON GOVERNMENTAL WILDLIFE ENTITIES MAKING POLICIES THAT AFFECT NOT ONLY ONE SPECIES OF WILDLIFE, BUT ALL WILDLIFE IN GENERAL.
Sheila Bolin is the CEO and co/founder of The Regal Swan Foundation, Inc., based in Orlando, Florida. Bolin has been named one of the top 39 conservationists in the world by the prestigious Indianapolis Prize for her work with the world’s species of swans. Bolin has been nominated for the 2014 Indianapolis Prize along with some of the world’s other leading conservationists, including Jane Goodall and members of Diane Fosse’s organization, to name a few.