Monday, October 5, 2009

Mute Swans

I'll be in Madison, Wisconsin for the rest of the week, at the Society of Environmental Journalists annual conference. It's the most important professional meeting of my year. Also the most exciting and most fun.

Among other things I'll be doing at the conference is hosting a lunch on the subject of Wetland Ecology: Mute Swans. My new book, How to Raise Poultry, has a chapter on Swans, although they are something of a stretch for domestic poultry. Some kinds of swans are raised domestically.

Not usually Mute Swans, which are kept semi-domestically in England. In North America, they have successfully colonized some wetland areas, in the Atlantic Flyway and on the Great Lakes, crowding out other wetland birds. When populations expand, they can overexploit the available resources, eating more submerged vegetation than can recover.

So they are controversial. Wetland managers want to reduce the population, or eliminate them entirely, as documented in the Atlantic Flyway Mute Swan Management Plan 2003-2013, Atlantic Flyway Council, July 2003. Their advocates love them and want to protect them, The idea of hunting or otherwise killing these beautiful birds makes the public recoil.

We'll discuss how reporters can cover this story most effectively and help the public understand and participate in making decisions about the Mute Swan's future in North America.

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