Re: NANFA-- Exotic Removal -Swans vs Snakeheads

Christopher Scharpf (
Fri, 12 Sep 2003 18:47:40 -0400

I live near the Bay, so I hear and read about this issue every day.

The issue is a legal one. The swans are protected by the Migratory Bird
Treaty Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, which (I presume) does
not distinguish between natives and exotics. It's not that the judges don't
want the swans to be killed. They are simply upholding the laws, which, if
you follow them to the letter, forbids anyone from doing so.

The "do-gooders" argue that the swans are being made a scapegoat for the
runoff, development, hog farms, etc., that are responsible for the Bay's
poor health. Rather than kill swans, laws should be made (or enforced) and
more resources allocated toward watershed protection. In this the
"do-gooders" are absolutely correct: the Bay's ill's are not the fault of
the swans.

However, what the "do-gooders" fail to realize is that the fragile health of
the Bay -- specifically, the few remaining patches of healthy bay grasses,
which the swans like to eat -- is made even more fragile by the presence of
the swans. Reducing the swan population won't solve the problem, but it will
eliminate a serious stressor. Reproducing swans + dwindling bay grasses is a
catastrophe waiting to happen. (And this is to say nothing of the swan's
aggressiveness toward native birds such as heron and osprey. Having been
chased by a male swan when I came within 30 yards of its nest, I can attest
to the fact that these creatures are big and mean and fearless!)

The judges' hands are tied. The laws -- which was written long before swans
became a problem -- clearly forbids their being killed. Yet all responsible
scientists and wildlife managers know that curbing their population is the
ecologically sound thing to do.

I would guess that it would take an amendment to the cited Acts -- in other
words, an act of Congress -- to allow the swans to be killed.


> From: John Bongiovanni <>
> Reply-To:
> Date: Fri, 12 Sep 2003 13:50:53 -0500
> To:
> Subject: NANFA-- Exotic Removal -Swans vs Snakeheads
> Geez. I heard on NPR today about the problem Maryland is having with the
> Asian Mute Swan. Its taking over areas of Chesapeak Bay displacing other
> birds and eating and tearing up the aquatic grasses that the fish live in.
> The local parks and wildlife dept has devised a program to destroy the birds.
> These are huge birds by-the-way.
> Now there are organized "do-gooder" groups raising cane over the destruction
> of the exotics. They have actually convinced a judge to execute a stay
> preventing the state from moving forward in their plans. Good thing that old
> snakehead in Maryland last summer was just butt ugly!
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