Animal rights advocates say that although the swans, originally from Asia, are not native to the region, they represent a relatively small threat to the bay’s ecology compared to the real problem, which is pollution from poultry farming and sewage treatment plants.
The environmentalists claim a more rational approach to reducing the swan population would be to initiate birth control measures similar to those taken against Canada geese.
Jonathan McKnight of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources defended the scientific basis for the anti-swan campaign. He told radio listeners that the current controversy is “a war for the hearts and minds of Marylanders where we, in the conservation community, are after their minds and the animal rights folks are after their hearts.”
“And what we need to do is to make folks understand the complexity of the situation to show them how much science we’ve dedicated to this, how hard we have looked for alternatives and let that override their gut reaction to the idea of killing a storybook creature,” the official said.
A federal court delayed the state’s swan shooting spree, and was set to decide who had the most convincing scientific arguments on their side. However, on Sept. 17, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which had approved the Maryland plan, announced that it was withdrawing all permits to kill mute swans nationwide.
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