International animal advocacy group Friends of Animals is repulsed to learn that the Board of Trustees in Putnam Township, Michigan, approved by a 6-1 margin a resolution to allow the Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) to begin shooting all ages of mute swans and reduce numbers of swans by thousands—to the 2,000-range statewide—down from 15,500. Despite such a massacre, the misled board “felt confident that the DNR knows how to do this as humanely as possible.”
Less than two years ago, Waterford Township, Michigan, curtailed its swan-killing plan under the guise of swan’s “aggressive behavior toward people” when Michigan residents expressed overwhelming support for swans.
Sadly, the Board of Trustees only heard one side of the story at its regular meeting—a presentation from the Portage, Base, and Whitewood Owner’s Association on the so-called dangers that swans pose to both humans and wetland habitats.
We are urging our Michigan members to call the Board of Trustees to provide another side of the story and tell them to put a stop to this misguided plan.
The Portage, Base, and Whitewood Owner’s Association is a mouthpiece for fisherman, wave runner operators and boaters — groups of people who hold prejudice toward mute swans because they have to share the lake with them. Anglers infringe on mute swan nests with their boats and poles, and find swans inconvenient if they retaliate. Also, the DNR is a mouthpiece for hunters. This is a deadly combination for mute swans.
But Friends of Animals knows their flimsy attempts to blame mute swans for causing significant environmental damage lacks justification and scientific evidence.
While the diet of mute swans consists of sub aquatic vegetation (SAV), 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. Since mute swans constitute only a small percentage of waterfowl in Michigan, and other waterfowl also consume aquatic vegetation, killing mute swans will not contribute significantly to SAV recovery.
The truth is DNR dislikes mute swans because they can’t be hunted, and the agency caters to waterfowl hunters. So it has to convince the public swans are out of control. The agency lists birds supposedly threatened by mute swans: common loons and trumpeter swans, Canada geese and native ducks.
In the case of Canada geese and native ducks the only thing the agency really cares about is making sure there are enough for hunters to shoot. Look no further than the agency’s own “More bang for your buck information sheet” on its website. There they brag about Michigan’s “strong waterfowl hunting heritage with unique opportunities to pursue dabbling, diving and sea ducks, and Canada geese because Michigan is an important migratory waterfowl flyway that provides breeding, spring and fall migration, and wintering habitat.”
If there are problems for native waterfowl in Michigan it’s from loss of habitat caused by human overpopulation, and hunting.
Saying it is acceptable for mute swans to be slaughtered because of negative ecological impacts is toxic and perpetuates the idea to boaters and other outdoor enthusiasts that although mute swans are stunning, they are no more than picturesque pests that are better off dead.
The truth is humans changing their behavior and not using dangerous pesticides or participating in animal agriculture could make a difference. Likewise, recreationalists could make a difference if they change their behavior and keep their distance from nesting sites and when they see adults with young birds.
Mute swans are not aggressive birds, but when they are nesting or defending young, they become protective parents, which should be admirable to humans.
Friends of Animals, an international animal protection organization founded in 1957, advocates for the rights of animals, free-living and domestic around the world. www.friendsofanimals.org.