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The mass slaughter of 55 Mannington Meadows resident Mute Swans by the NJ Fish and Wildlife Agency was brought to the attention of Salem County residents October 17, 2009 by a local newspaper article. Despite a public outcry that this action was done without public notification or concern that these birds were permanent established residents of the Meadows, and an attraction to local residents as well as wildlife enthusiasts for decades, the Fish and Wildlife Assistant Director Larry Herrighty justified the action as a necessary part of an effort to control non-native invasive species and to monitor these birds as possible carriers of Avian flu . . .a public health justification. The matter was shortly dropped by all but a few enraged citizens requesting an investigation since the excuses of public health concerns and the competition with "native species" was discovered to be unfounded.

On further inquiry by a small group who refused to accept the slaughter as warranted, it was discovered that this particular kill in Mannington Meadows, Salem County, NJ was a small one in comparison to the mass and brutal slaughter in other states and along the Chesapeake. The slaughter on the Chesapeake has been well documented and photographed and became the basis of legal intervention which precipitated a power struggle between the advocates of the Mute Swan and an organized force wanting them eliminated.

The story is better told by a courageous and dedicated woman from Connecticut who has taken on the defense of the Mute Swan and has a website which is vastly informative and beautiful~ please go to her site after reading this page.  She has specific recommendations for us to follow.

With her permission, and our thanks for her continuing efforts, her story, A Story of the Larger Problem, as she tells it follows:

October 26, 2009

Lucinda,

Thank you for your email and kind thoughts.

I got involved when one of the swans that are here on our lake was hit by a jet skier and the DEP would do nothing, even though there was a special statute protecting them, in Connecticut.

I found that swans were being killed, but could not get evidence. Then, coincidentally, I read about a woman in Washington, D.C. who saw and photographed the swans being killed in the Chesapeake. Since I had no evidence, I could not bring the case in Federal court in D.C., but I called her and together we brought a case (I got the attorney and did the exhibits) We won that case, gaining Migratory Bird Treaty Act coverage for the swans (Hill v Norton) but all that did was infuriate the US F&W people and they started in immediately, changing the rules once again and getting a Congressman in Maryland to change the MBTA through lies and their power to influence all of the Flyways across the country and Canada. The Treaties were changed as Clinton left office, he signed the Invasive Species Bill and the mute swans were listed as non-native invasives
.

I went back into court, but Humane Society of the United States came in two days after I filed and the Court heard them, but I never got a hearing. The problem, was that HSUS scientist kept referring to the mute swans as "non-native." The judge stated that "since the complainant and the federal agency agree the mute swans are non-native, the case is moot and he threw us out.

HOWEVER, there is a proviso that should new material be found showing the mute could be native, we could be heard, again. I filed with the Interior department four months ago, so far no reply.

Humane Society of the United States had a witness to the killings in the Chesapeake, an almost 65,000 sq miles body of water that has never had more than 4500 mute swans, at most and also has more than 260,000 diving ducks that can go twenty feet down to pull up the vegetation, but are protected, for the hunters to kill, instead. The Bay has never met minimum Clean Water Act criteria and still has remnants of phosphorous bombs from WWI, some dredged to create bird islands, it is a cesspool, but the mute swan is still targeted. None of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) material I have received from USGS, US F&WS, DNR, etc. state that the mute swans are a significant problem, only that there is a "potential."

By the way, the 4500 swans have been reduced to under a hundred and the methods of killing some were a felony in Maryland, Sacking, beating, and cutting the necks with a long handled branch cutter, yet, NOTHING has been done to the DNR agents or management.

I was contacted recently by someone who is an award winning documentary producer who wants to bring this story to the people. He interviewed me, but I don't know where its going.

We had a swan family here for twenty years, the offspring of the same family that has been here for more than eighty years, according to old timers. The whole family was killed, including newly hatched cygnets.

The Audubon gave the Environmental Commission head here a huge honor. When I went to see him I handed him my factual material and he just handed them right back to me, unread and told me about the honor. He did not want to have to say he had read convincing material that goes against Audubon charges against the swans. They are the worst, because they have such a good reputation, but a man who was their head scientist for thirty years told me my work shows the swans are indeed native.

It all about grant money and now that starts in high schools. The people studying birds, watersheds, etc. will get grants ONLY if they go along with US F&W dictates....this is even true of towns, etc. they must fall into line in order to get grants, which are the drugs of towns, schools and non profits everywhere.

I have to get going.............again, thanks for your interest. I will keep trying, till the end. I love these birds and I love justice.

We need help on the legislative level, everywhere.

Kathryn Stillwell Burton

"Only a fool would kill a swan, for to do so is to impinge on your birthright,
to sully your natural surroundings, to scar your soul a little,"

S.Dillon Ripley, Secty Smithsonian

 

Please go to her website for instruction on how to help

The petition to Investigate the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife action to kill 55 Mute Swans in Mannington Meadows, New Jersey October 2009 is still important because it is representative of a larger plan that is now being carried out without regard to newly found information showing that the Mute Swan is a native species to N. America and thus protected ~ Scientific documentation that the Mute Swan of North America whose fossils have been discovered in 4 states from the Miocene era onward is still categorized as a non-native species, and as such; not protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. (See Kathryn Burtonís web page)

As far as the action of the NJ Division of Wildlife in the slaughter of the resident mute swans of Mannington Meadows, Salem County, New Jersey, an inquiry as to why a long established population of Mute Swans present for generations which was not competing with other species of native swans (Tundra) who thrive in the Chesapeake, Maryland area, were targeted for elimination against the recommendation of the comprehensive report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Tundra Swan 2007 which states:

" in the section B-4: recommendation 2 "Prevent establishment of Mute Swan populations where they do not exist and reduce or eliminate mute swan populations in important EP Tundra swan staging and wintering areas."

USFWS National wildlife refuges, state wildlife agencies were responsible for carrying out this directive with the proper depredation permits which were placed under a moratorium in 2003 pending completion of further review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

Questions:

 

In summary:

The loss of these birds is immeasurable. The culling of populations to such a great degree diminishes the gene pool and narrows the potential of natural selection ~ weakening the offspring of the few individuals left to breed.

The cruel modes of slaughter are a brutality that mystifies comprehension ~ seeming to be a refusal or inability to access the comprehensive intelligence that includes facts, feelings and values for good decision-making in the stewardship of the natural world. They also violate State and Federal laws.

These actions are yet further examples of the abuse of authority ~ politically coercing through the threatening of withheld funding; forcing the very organizations charged with the stewardship of wildlife diversity to stand silently as a species, valued and misrepresented as non-native to North America, is systematically murdered.

The calculated misrepresentation of a native species, with the purpose of favoring species that are sportsmenís trophies; making it a scapegoat for the damage man himself has created in waterways such as the Chesapeake, represents a manipulation of information for selfish gain at the expense of the greater good.

The case of the Mute Swan is clearly a breach of public trust ~

  • with the most blatant disregard for scientific evidence that this species is native (circumboreal );
  • defiance of the Ad Hoc committee on the Tundra Swan guidelines specifically limiting the destruction of established populations of mute swans,
  • and the political tweaking of treaty protection to expose the Mute Swan of North America to mass slaughter.
  • With these accusations, a halt to this slaughter should be immediate, as an investigation to bring forth proof is made through due process with the New Jersey Public Advocate's Office representing the public trust.

    Please sign the petition to investigate the Mannington Meadows slaughter by the NJ Fish and Wildlife reported in the October 17, 2009 Todayís Sunbeam

    and

    Please go to Kathryn Burtonís website, Save Our Swans which is a wealth of information with further recommendations for efforts to stop this slaughter of the majestic and native Mute Swan.

    Residents from private lakes across New Jersey are encouraged to participate for the purpose of future networking and a coalition voice when the government supercedes the publicís right to be informed prior to actions being taken of this magnitude.

     

    Trumpeter Swan native to USA and Canada

    Tundra swan- an arctic swan native to North America

    Mute swan- a  circumboreal bird including North America

     


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    Mute Swans as Immigrants ~ Lucinda's Opinion

                                                              

    © 2009 Lucinda R. Lewis

    I wish to thank my husband, G. Philip Lewis, Esq., for his generous help in creating this website ~
    his good thinking, his patience and his technical skill.