Mute Swans in Maryland:
A Statewide Management Plan
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Wildlife and Heritage Service
April 14, 2003
Mute swans are not native to Maryland and North America. Mute swans from Europe were introduced along the Atlantic coast as early as the late 1800’s. However, sizeable numbers were not imported until after the turn of the century. Initial introductions centered around the New York City area. Estate owners and public officials sought to have mute swans to add elegance and charm to the visual beauty of public parks and estate ponds. Some swans eventually escaped or were deliberately released into the wild and subsequently established breeding populations. Currently, over 22,000 mute swans occupy coastal and freshwater habitats along the Atlantic coast from New Hampshire to Florida, the Great Lakes, Washington State, southern Ontario, and British Columbia.
The first recorded observations of mute swans in the tidewater areas of Maryland occurred when three birds were observed near Ocean City in February 1954 and then again when three swans were seen near Gibson Island, Anne Arundel County, in January 1955.These likely were transient birds forced south by severe winter weather. The mute swan population in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay has been attributed to the escape of five captive birds along the Miles River in Talbot County during a spring storm in March 1962. Following this accidental introduction, the mute swan population grew slowly for two decades. However, after the mid-1980s, the swan population underwent dramatic growth and range expansion, rising to about 4,000 birds by 1999.
Although valued for their aesthetic beauty, the mute swan is one of the world’s most aggressive species of waterfowl. In Maryland, aggressive mute swan pairs have become a nuisance, preventing people from using their shoreline properties and riparian waters where swans vigorously defend their nest and young during the breeding season. Concomitant with the dramatic rise in mute swan numbers, conflicts between mute swans and native wildlife have increased, including the displacement of colonial waterbirds and native waterfowl from nesting and feeding areas. Furthermore, mute swan grazing on submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) has reduced the amount of SAV available to several native waterfowl species and other fish and wildlife. Although the impacts upon SAV are not well quantified, it is clear that maintaining a large mute swan population in Chesapeake Bay poses a threat to the remaining SAV beds and the establishment of new SAV beds, and therefore, is an impediment to achieving the goals of the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement.
This management plan describes the status and impacts of mute swans in Maryland. It is a guidance document that provides direction, objectives, and strategies for the DNR to manage this species through 2008. Progress made toward achieving management objectives will be assessed annually and the plan will be updated in 2008.
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contents (c) 2003
Maryland Department of Natural Resources.