Feds find out that force-feeding white phosphorous to mute swans kills them

LAUREL, Md. – – “ T h i s has been proclaimed the year that mute swans will be eliminated from North America,” warns swan defender Kathryn Burton of Old Lyme, Connecticut. “A directive to get rid of all mutes on federal property came from the Interior Department in 1997,” endorsed by many state wildlife agencies as well, “with the goal being total eradication in 2000,” Burton adds.

Eradicating mute swans could become a symbolic first victory for the Invasive Species Council, created by executive order of President Bill Clinton in early February 1999 with a mandate to destroy all wild animals and plants not native to the U.S.

Mute swans are easy targets because they are few, are large, are conspicuous, remain together as pairs even when one partner is gravely wounded, and are hated by wildlife managers who blame them for 13 years of failures to re-establish huntable populations of native trumpeter swans.

Shot to near extinction more than 100 years ago, trumpeter swans have not recovered for two reasons. First, destruction of wetlands during most of the 20th century took away much of their former habitat. Second, giant nonmigratory Canada geese introduced by wildlife agencies during the latter half of the century––to provide future targets for hunters––occupied much of what habitat was left.

Soft sell

A total North American population of probably far fewer than 20,000 feral mute swans is by comparison little threat to trumpeters. But the mutes are easier to kill than the giant Canada geese, and killing them does not require wildlife agencies to admit a mistake.

On the other hand, besides being popular for their beauty, mute swans are increasingly popular with private property owners because they chase Canada geese and other waterfowl out of their habitat during the nesting season. As overt attempts to kill mute swans in Connecticut, Maryland, and Vermont have met strong citizen resistance since 1988, so-called soft strategies are now employed.

For instance, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources injected bleach into the eggs of mute swans around Lake Superior in early May.

Hard truth

Capturing mute swans for supposed relocation to sanctuaries is another wildlife agency ploy. The sanctuaries, however, are not namd, even in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. T w o U.S. Geological Survey Patuxent Wildlife Research Center abstracts posted at describe what was actually done with 72 mute swans at the USGS research facility in Laurel, Maryland.

According to the abstract of Relation of lead exposure to sediment ingestion, by W.N. Beyer, Daniel D. Day, A. Morton, and Y. Pachepsy, “Forty-two mute swans were collected from unpolluted portions of central Chesapeake Bay in spring 1995. Their intestinal digesta were analyzed for 13 metals and for acid-insoluable ash, a marker of sediment…Swan livers and sediment samples also were analyzed.”

In short, they were eviscerated. At that, however, they surely suffered less than 30 juvenile mute swans who were force-fed white phosphorous in 1998 as part of an LD50 study by Donald W. Sparling, Daniel D. Day, and P. Klein. “Many of the swans still had P4 in their gizzards after dying, as determined by ‘smoking gizzards,’” the researchers stated. “Most swans took 1 to 4.5 days to die.”

The study was supposedly undertaken on behalf of tundra and trumpeter swans who are said to be exposed to white phosphorous at an Alaskan military base

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