The death knell for the mute swan rings today as the period for public comments ends on the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s report “Environmental Assessment of Mute Swans in the Atlantic Flyway”

In response to this 78-page document, Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals (FoA), urges Maryland officials: “Stop blaming the swans for the environmental damage that human beings have caused, and continue to cause.”

Mute swans have been blamed for everything from the degradation of the waterway ecologies, to the harassment of other birds, to threats to human health and safety. And the punishment is death by shooting for the swans. “The science on these topics doesn’t bear out the claims made by Fish and Wildlife. In fact, there is plenty of expert opinion and academic papers that run counter to the arguments that have been presented as justification for the shooting of mute swans. Not only are they trying to decimate the population of mute swans in the Northeast, they are doing it based on shoddy evidence,” says Starre Vartan, science writer for FoA.

In response to the oft-cited fact that mute swans aren’t native to US waterways, the late Dr. Roger Tory Peterson, an internationally respected avian authority and illustrator of Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds has written of mute swans: “My view is to leave them alone. It’s a narrow academic view that something that’s not native should be excluded. They’ve adapted to our ways. With overpopulation, either they’ll adjust or die, just as people will.”

Mute swans should be permitted to continue their lives naturally and without intrusion. The proposed mute swan control method, Integrated Population Management (which includes the shooting of mute swans as a population control measure, as well as addling of eggs and pinioning, or cutting of swans’ wings so they cannot fly) is based on recommendations by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service without taking into serious account the interests of the general public who use the state and federal lands this assessment seeks to control.

Friends of Animals, through the Swan Watch Network, is offering $2500 to anyone who makes a quality recording of a mute swan being killed or harassed by a federal or state agent. Friends of Animals is an international animal rights organization with over 200,000 members and supporters.