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“The best way out is always through.”

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Mute Swans Struggle to Survive in Connecticut

The other day I was sitting down by the river with a friend and a family of swans glided up to where we were sitting. I was really surprised to see this brood of 14 cygnets bracketed by the two parents. The  trouble was that they came so close I couldn't widen my 70-300mm zoom out wide enough to take in the whole family--I had to cut the adults in half. Kind of looks like you could join the two adults up to make one complete swan. But it's OK, I just wanted a snapshot to record this nice family. Normally swans lay odd-numbers of eggs, so I was surprised to see an even number of babies. Perhaps something happened to one, or perhaps there was a straggler that I didn't see.

There used to be a ton of swans near me in Connecticut, but the state passed an "egg addling" law that allows for the shaking of swan eggs to destroy the babies. This is done because the duck hunters complained about the way that swans "attacked" the ducks they were hunting. This from the people that want to shoot the ducks and eat them.

It sickens me that the state took the side of the hunters and not the swans. The year before the law passed I would commonly see dozens of swans in a 10 mile drive up the river. Now I see almost none. It struck me as odd (very odd) that the year that the bill was passed, suddenly dozens of adult swans also disappeared. What happened to them? Swans don't migrate, so where did all of the adults go?

It's a damn shame when the lives of such beautiful animals are wiped out so that a tiny group of people can have their selfish way. Thousands of people are denied the joy of seeing these majestic and beautiful birds so that a handful of hunters won't have to deal with swans. (And hunters will tell you that swans are not a native species--but neither are the starlings in your backyard!) And, by the way, I am *not* an opponent of hunting for those who use the food to feed their families--but I am vehemently against an entire population of swans being destroyed when there is no hard science to back up the claims of the damage they are supposed to cause. And, as any biologist will tell you, when you try to wipe out a species like this in a limited area the breeding goes into overdrive. The egg-addling program is creating the problem they were seeking to solve.

I'd like to see the numbers of how many swans are left in Connecticut and the rest of New England but because of the economy there is probably no staff collecting this important data. If you happen to know someone who is going to school for wildlife biology, perhaps you could suggest a swan study as a class project.