Day 8: why Maineiac, and what in the world do swans have to do with anything?

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This is why swans. Trumpeter Swans (Cygnus buccinator) adults with yellow bands, by juveniles, Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) and Greater White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons). My photo, January 2016, Indiana.

I know, I know, “What gives? Your blog name makes zero sense”! If you know me on a personal level, it makes 100% sense all over the place. The above photo is one I took at my winter study site while counting Trumpeter Swans for my Master’s Thesis. Watching these huge white birds, the largest water bird on the North American continent, several times per week, and learning about them really made me feel a connection to them. I joke and call the Trumpeters in this wintering area “My Swans!”, and I hope some of them are still present when I go to Indiana to defend later this winter.

Like many folks, when you say the word “swan”, I used to immediately go to the mental image of the Mute Swan, the big fluffy “love” swan that is depicted in most movies, literature, and is most commonly found in park settings.

Let me tell you something about the Mute Swan: this bird is a right bastard, and it doesn’t belong in the United States or Canada, unless it’s in a zoo.

Wait. What? No! It’s so pretty, and full of whimsy!

No.

It’s an invasive species that is horrendously mean to native waterfowl, strips native vegetation, and mucks up waterways with its waste. It’s such a pain in the ass for conservation that the Department of Environmental Conservation in the State of New York wanted to eradicate them, but thanks to public outcry, had to modify their plans.

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No, seriously, these guys are aggressive dicks, no matter your feelings on Canada Geese. Photo by Harmonica Pete

My frustration with the Mute is that people make baseless, factless assertions that the Mute Swan is native because it has been here since the 1800’s, no. A native species is one that is endemic to its area, not one that required human intervention for transport and breeding. That it is pretty, so it should be allowed to remain, unchecked, in areas shared by native waterfowl suffering from decline.

I have even heard utter nonsense such as: “The DNR wants the eradicate the Mute Swan so it can introduce the larger Trumpeter Swan as a game species”, as noted in this petition. I cannot wrap my head around that bit of stupidity. The fact is, the Trumpeter Swan is not legal to hunt in any state of the union. Not. One. It missed being included on the Endangered Species List by timing and one last population stronghold in Eastern Canada and Alaska. It is only one of two swans native in North America, the other being the Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus), which is allowed to be hunted in only five states, including South Dakota. Most of those states have a strict bag limit, and as soon as a certain number of accidental takes of Trumpeters is reached, the season is closed.

Upon reflection, my level of irateness at the Mute Swan is merely an indicator of overall annoyance at wildlife management, environmental stewardship, and the generally cavalier attitude portrayed by the public, and many of our elected officials. As someone who has been involved with several species who were endangered, are endangered, and can easily be so again, this is a huge, raw nerve.

If you think swans are as stunning as I am, if you would love to know more about our largest native swan, the Trumpeter, I highly recommend The Trumpeter Swan Society. I am a member, and I cannot say enough about their dedication and commitment to these magnificent animals, from restoration and tracking, to education, facts, outreach, and conservation efforts.

Okay, native bird lover rant mode off…

On to the “Maineiac”: yes, I do in fact know how to spell, this is in reference to the recent relocation from the heartland of America to a coastal state, one that I have absolutely fallen in love with. Maine. Of course according to Urban Dictionary, a “Maineiac” is at least a third generation Mainer, but eh, as long as you are a year-round resident, you’re good. Yes, the governor is a teabagging nutter, but this state? It is beautiful, the sun shines most of the time, and Mainers make Midwestern hospitality look like hostility.

So, there you have not only the genesis of “Maineiac Swan”, but also a rant. Call it a twofer, you’re welcome!

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