Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Beautiful Invasive Species: Mute Swan

Just as I think I could never get a posting ahead of Jenn (gottcha!) at her great site (Invasive Species Weblog) I hear this report printed below on the news this morning. The interface between the greater public’s definition of beauty and the havoc wreaked by invaders on natural areas is brought into stark focus. Many garden ornamentals are seen to be beautiful, and any attempt to take them away pricks at the public’s heart strings causing the message of harm to become obscured. How we define beauty is an underlining fundamental challenge in the on going conversation about invasive species.

Copied from: Copyright 2007 Post-Newsweek Media, Inc./Gazette.Net, (Wednesday, March 14, 2007)
Beloved mute swan is killed by motorist
Cremation and memorial service are planned after the loss of ‘the most beautiful thing at the lake’
by Sebastian Montes Staff Writer

It arrived unexpectedly on Montgomery Village’s Lake Whetstone some four years ago. Now, just as suddenly, the Village’s only swan is gone, killed Friday morning by a motorist heading south on Montgomery Village Avenue
No one knows exactly when the mute swan came to the Village. Or why it — the gender is unknown — decided to stay, living alone among the lake’s thousands of Canada geese.
But one thing is sure, say residents who frequent the lake: The swan will be sorely missed.
‘‘He was exquisitely beautiful. He was the most beautiful thing at the lake,” said longtime Village resident and naturalist Jane Wilder.
It was a sickening sight for Whetstone resident Scott Crews shortly after he left for work at 7:45 a.m. Friday. Amid the usual rush of cars on Montgomery Village Avenue, he came to a bus stopped in the right lane near the curve before Walker House apartments. He pulled around the bus, then passed another vehicle, its blinkers on.
‘‘I saw the swan basically in convulsions... It was flailing about, the wings were flapping hysterically,” Crews said Monday. ‘‘It was trying to right itself, its wings were spread as though it was trying to take flight.”
He called his wife, police, animal rescue, his neighbors. Then he had to tell his three children, 10, 7 and 4 years old. ‘‘It’s one of my kids’ favorite things, and they cried hysterically,” he said.
Word of the swan’s death spread fast on Friday. By mid-afternoon, e-mails were streaming into The Gazette with photos of the swan.
One resident crafted an impromptu monument Friday: three white silk flowers taped to a street sign near where the swan was killed.
‘‘To our friend the Swan,” reads the attached note, ‘‘Thank you for your beauty, grace and life — For sharing it all with us. Que dios te bendiga [in Spanish, ‘May God bless you’]. With love, Your Friends.”
Amid the mourning and commiseration, the Crews family learned that several other families played the same game with their children as they drove by the lake or walked along its shore: Who can spot the swan first?
But its graceful form will no longer glide across the water, nor tower over the throngs of geese any more.
‘‘It’s hard to believe [it] is gone,” Martha Crews, Scott’s wife, said. ‘‘It’s a huge loss.”
For several days last week, Wilder spotted the swan crossing Montgomery Village Avenue to feed with geese on an out-of-season bounty of acorns. She is sure the accident was caused by a speeding motorist, long a complaint by nearby residents.
Wilder and others hope to find out who was responsible. But on Friday, all she could do was take the swan to a pet crematory in Rockville. She and the volunteer group Friends of Whetstone Lake will cover the $160 fee to cremate the swan, as early as today.
There is talk of a memorial service next week where the swan’s ashes could be scattered on to the lake — which FOWL co-founder Joe Pizzonia finds a fitting tribute.
‘‘We would look out our window at the lake and there’d be the swan,” he said. ‘‘It was like a sense of freedom.”

About mute swans
Mute swans can grow up to 30 pounds and 5 feet or more in height.
They are an exotic species brought to North America from Europe in the 1800s. Maryland’s population — now numbering 3,600 — derives from five swans that escaped their owners in 1962.
Mute swans are one of the few birds known to keep one mate for life, sometimes not taking another mate after it dies.
The state kills mute swans around the Chesapeake Bay because of their ‘‘adverse ecological effects” — namely, for eating too much aquatic vegetation and for overwhelming other bird species.
Because Montgomery Village had only one mute swan, the state let it be.
Source: Maryland Department of Natural Resources

1 comment:

Elijah Weber said...

I agree with the comment you posted on my site that the issue of invasive species is a rather "wicked" problem. The point of view that an individual or group is supporting tends to dictate their opinion of how invasive species should be approached and dealt with.

What I find most troubling, though, is the degree to which scientific data is marginalized, minimized, and even ignored when it does not support certain specific interests. This is not good science, and it is even worse philosophy.