BALTIMORE, June 9 (UPI) -- Maryland must kill the last of its invasive mute swans to protect habitat critical to native birds, such as terns and tundra swans, state officials said.
"The biology is clear. The management is clear," said Jonathan McKnight, an environmental scientist who oversees the eradication program. "There's not a lot of disagreement except for the animal advocates."
Maryland's mute swan population reached an estimated 4,000 birds a decade ago after their escape from a Talbot County estate in 1962. Efforts by the state to kill the swans and their eggs have reduced the population to about 500 birds, The Baltimore Sun reported Tuesday.
Biologists say an adult mute swan eats up to 8 pounds of underwater grasses daily. Sailboat rudders and outboard motors, however, destroy more vegetation in a year than 450 mute swans, said Joseph Lamp, a mute swan supporter and member of the state's Wildlife Advisory Commission.
"This will come back to haunt" the state, Lamp said of the plan to finish off the swans. "People will remember this."