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Maryland's Mute Swans are in Trouble

Birds are blamed for human caused destruction to the Chesapeake Bay

The Humane Society of the United States

The Chesapeake Bay’s mute swans are in trouble.

Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has killed more than 3,100 swans since 2003, leaving only 200-300 in Maryland's section of the Bay. And those survivors are targeted for slaughter as well. The DNR claims swans are harming the submerged aquatic vegetation (bay grasses) and polluting the water. This couldn’t be further from the truth.  


Aquatic grasses are a natural food source for swans and hundreds of thousands of other waterfowl that live in the Bay for all or part of the year. Mute swans are in no way a threat to the health of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. This dynamic ecosystem is stressed by pollution, turbidity, and the catastrophic effects (contamination with pesticides, fertilizers, sewage, septic algae, etc.) of rampant development on adjoining land.  

Mute swans have little impact on the loss of aquatic vegetation in the Bay compared to destruction caused by boats and the 500 million pounds of pollutants that factory farms and sewage treatment plants dump into the Bay each year.

But the industries that cause the erosion and dump tons of pollutants into the Bay every year are highly influential; therefore, mute swans have become the scapegoats for a government agency looking for something else to blame for the destruction of the Bay.

Inhumane killing methods

Currently, DNR officials acknowledge that the killing process includes shooting or herding up swans by boat and forcing swans, who are unable to fly because of the summertime loss of flight feathers, into a dense marsh where they are subsequently chased down and captured.  Each swan is then held by one or more people while another person wielding a bolt-cutter like implement crushes and "dislocates" the neck vertebrae/spinal cord.  This abhorrent cruelty seems to be the norm. To make it even worse, swans are killed randomly without any regard to even alleged “damage.”

Governor O’Malley can stop the killing

The HSUS is calling upon Governor O’Malley to declare an immediate moratorium on the killing of mute swans in the Bay. We are eager to work with the state of Maryland to resolve any perceived threat mute swans may pose to the Bay and the environment by using humane non-lethal methods.

We have significant experience in implementing non-lethal wildlife conflict resolution techniques and have participated actively in non-lethal management of Canada goose populations in urban areas across the nation. We also direct Humane Wildlife Services, the first nationally recognized commercial operation to employ humane methods of resolving wildlife conflicts in urban areas.

TV personality and former Marylander Montel Williams has even written to the Governor, urging him to call of the brutal killing of the swans. World renowned photographer Nigel Barker and legendary guitarist Slash have also spoken out to protect swans.

These majestic birds deserve to live their lives in peace, free from the threat of a cruel death.

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