Sunday, December 21, 2008

blinded by beauty?

This is a tough one. Witnessing the whistling winter flight of a group of swans is an experience like no other, but there is a downside to their presence. Some non-native species are actually quite aggressive towards the native ones and dangerous to our local eco-system. Since the mid 1990s, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has attempted to control certain populations by addling eggs but there are mixed opinions regarding how effective this method is. According to a local hunter who has noted the particularly negative effect of the black beak mute swans, it may be time for the DNR to re-examine the protection laws.

“The swans can be slaughtered in Virginia but are protected in Maryland,” he tells me. “They are beautiful birds but they are eating the underwater vegetation in the [Chesapeake] bay. They are hurting the crab and duck populations and you can’t hunt them.”

Perhaps the plea for the swans protection is trumping other issues because of their longstanding cultural and symbolic significance and beauty. Or perhaps my opinions are more easily swayed around midnight at holidays parties.

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