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May 8, 2009

Md. Department of Natural Resources Continues to Slaughter Mute Swans

The Humane Society of the United States

The Humane Society of the United States criticizes the decision by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to continue to kill mute swans in the Chesapeake Bay, despite having convened an advisory committee to discuss management of mute swans for the next five to 10 years. The department disclosed Thursday that it has killed 125 swans, or more than 20 percent of the population, just since March of this year. While DNR admits that negative impacts from the swans are negligible, the agency has continued to kill swans while withholding this information from its own advisory committee. 

"This is an appalling display of malicious deceitfulness from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources," said John Grandy, Ph.D., senior vice president of wildlife and habitat protection for The HSUS. "While the DNR advisory committee discusses non-lethal swan management options and other factors affecting the health of the bay, the department continues to kill mute swans as a scapegoat for broader environmental problems."

Fewer than 450 mute swans remain in the Chesapeake Bay, a sharp reduction from the more than 4,000 that resided there just six years ago. Mute swans are protected under four International Conventions for the Protection of Migratory Birds.  

Maryland's Department of Natural Resources has killed thousands of mute swans in the Chesapeake Bay over the last several years. The DNR claims that the swans are damaging the ecosystem by consuming aquatic plants. However, there is no evidence to support this claim. In fact, run-off from chicken farms, industrial sites and construction is the main source of pollution, while outboard motors and rudders on boats destroy large amounts of aquatic vegetation. The state's 2003 mute swan management plan notes that at the level of 500 swans, their impact is "negligible." 

Talk show host and philanthropist Montel Williams, himself a native of Maryland, sent a letter to Gov. Martin O'Malley in April asking that the bay's mute swans be allowed to live out their lives in peace.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.

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