Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Swans and Spock

P1010123Swans are beautiful, but it doesn't make them any less destructive. In Fairhaven, MA two mute swans had to be killed to protect a newly-restored marsh. The situation created an odd dynamic - wildlife lovers were those most understanding of the need to protect the marsh:
Carolyn Longworth, a passionate birder and Millicent Library director, said while the loss of the swans saddens her, she understands the need to protect the marsh. "I felt both ways about it because I know they're destructive and it is people who brought them in. But on the other hand, I like the fact that the marsh is being restored and the first few years is a very sensitive time," she said.

Longworth said she felt she knew these swans after frequently photographing them at Atlas Tack. "The thing that endeared these particular birds to me is that I had never heard mute swans vocalize until I saw these," she said. "They made a zipp sound whenever they saw each other."

But she has also seen firsthand the new life that the restoration project has brought, including a gaggle of Gadwall ducklings, spotted last year, the first such breeding recorded in Bristol County. "Now it's beautiful," Longworth said of the marsh. "You could stand on that wall and look on both sides and see seven different species of heron. Before, you never saw anything in here except pigeons."
Meanwhile, the local Tea Party fans are questioning why government money was spent killing swans while ignoring that the government was trying to protect its $21 million investment in restoring the marsh.

Swans are beautiful sitting and absolutely amazing in flight, but they're also incredibly detrimental to their own ecosystems. They're an invasive species that eats up to 9 pounds of marsh grasses every day, destroying critical habitat for other species, from crabs to fish to native birds. Far from endangered, in places like Fairhaven, humans have eliminated virtually all of the natural predators big enough to take on a swan, so they breed unchecked, leaving culling as the best (if extremely unpleasant) option.

Sometimes, as Spock once said, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
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