An apparent attack on mute swans near Whalebone Cove in Hadlyme does not raise questions about whether they belong in our state.
It just raises questions about whether the ignorant humans who brutally beat them should be allowed to live in the state any longer without being behind bars.
Unfortunately, there is a sentiment among some boaters and recreationalists in the state that mute swans are picturesque pests that are better off dead. Mute swans are not aggressive birds, but when they are nesting or defending young, they become protective parents, which should be admirable to humans.
It’s appalling that the Long Island Sound Study Outreach Program Coordinator at the University of Connecticut believes slaughtering mute swans is necessary “to take the pressure off the natural environment.”
There is no evidence that the mute swan population in Connecticut is anything but stable — 1,000 to 1,400 birds since the 1990s. However, Connecticut’s human population grew from 3.4 million in 2000 to 3.6 million in 2019, whopping growth of nearly 200,000 people.
How about keeping human population in check to take pressure off the natural environment?
The myth that mute swans cause significant environmental damage lacks scientific evidence and distracts the public from environmental degradation caused by humans. While the diet of mute swans consists of sub-aquatic vegetation (SAV), recent studies have shown that runoff from fertilizers, pesticides and animal waste contribute significantly to the loss of SAV in other areas, like the Chesapeake Bay.
In New York for example, where Friends of Animals helped stall the Department of Environmental Conservation’s mute swan wipe-out plan, mute swans constitute only about one half of 1 percent of the approximately 400,000 waterfowl in New York, and the nearly half a million waterfowl also consume aquatic vegetation, so killing a relatively small population of mute swans will not contribute significantly to SAV recovery.
But humans changing their behavior and not using dangerous pesticides or participating in animal agriculture could make a difference.
The assertion that swans have a negative impact on other waterfowl is also groundless. If there are problems for native waterfowl it’s from loss of habitat caused by human overpopulation and hunting. Unfortunately, CT DEEP often caters to waterfowl hunters, and the agency’s strategy involves maligning swans to convince the public that they are out of control.
This article also says that according to DEEP public opinion is in favor of “swan control” to protect the state’s natural ecosystems based on a survey taken in the 1990s. The same is also on the DEEP website.
It’s obvious that poll, like the agency’s web page on mute swans, is outdated.
Nicole Rivard is a correspondent for Friends of Animals, a Connecticut-based animal advocacy group.