Sunday, September 20, 2020


Situation is Quite Different

I’m responding Nancy Webster’s July 22 letter “Swans Not a Nuisance,” written in response to Alan Schwarz’s letter on July 9, “Needs to Change.” Their letters expressed different opinions on the need to control the local mute swan populations.

Based on the situation in Clinton, Webster reports a single breeding pair that has nested nearby for several years and successfully hatches two to six cygnets per year. However, the mute swan situation is quite different on South Cove in Old Saybrook.

As I look out our window today, I count 150 mute swans on the cove. Based on previous years, by the end of August, there are likely to be more than 250 swans in the cove. These are large birds and can reach most of the bottom area of South Cove to feed. They primarily eat plant material and pick the cove bottom clean of eel grass and other native plants. The result of this overgrazing is the entire ecology of the cove has changed and no longer supports the aquatic habitat for small fish, shellfish, and other native species. Fewer migrating ducks stop to feed, in part because of the lack of food within reach on the bottom of the cove.

To reestablish a balance and diversity of native wildlife in South Cove, the population of mute swans needs to be controlled. I agree with Schwarz’s recommendation to contact our state representatives with requests to implement a mute swan population control plan. The Department of Energy & Environmental Protection website has additional information on mute swans. The mute swan isn’t protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, making it possible for Connecticut, as several other Northeast states and Canada have done, to conduct population control programs “compatible with balancing the ecological integrity of natural ecosystems.”

Larry Ritzhaupt
Old Saybrook