Welcome to the latest installment of the BayBlog Question of the Week! Each week, we take a question submitted on the Chesapeake Bay Program website or a frequently asked question and answer it here for all to read.
This week’s question came from John in New Jersey. John has been experiencing problems with mute swans while kayaking in his local waterways. He has seen them before, but never had any issues with them until last year. He and other kayakers were attacked several times last year and the attacks have resumed this year. He asked: “Short of quitting my favorite weekend sport, what can I do to deter the swan from attacking me?"
For this question, we contacted Jonathan McKnight, the associate director for habitat conservation with the Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
McKnight said that, unfortunately, mute swan attacks are not uncommon. Mute swans are an invasive species in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and other parts of the East Coast (such as New Jersey), causing problems for humans, other wildlife and the habitats where they live. Mute swans are very territorial of their nesting areas and near their young. With wingspans that can reach 6 feet long, mute swans are capable of causing serious injury to humans.
In Maryland, any mute swan attacks or sightings can be reported to DNR, and DNR officials will go out to the site and remove the swans. If mute swans are prohibiting use of the waterways near you, McKnight suggests contacting your state’s wildlife agency.
The best advice McKnight could offer John was to wear a life preserver when out in his kayak and to make his posture taller than the swan.
“If you are smaller than the swan, it will attack mercilessly,” McKnight said.
John had also mentioned an idea of using a bird repellent to ward off the swans, which McKnight said might be successful.
Visit our page on mute swans for more information about these invasive species in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Do you have a question about the Chesapeake Bay? Ask us and we might choose your question for the next Question of the Week! You can also ask us a question via Twitter by sending a reply to @chesbayprogram! Be sure to follow us there for all the latest in Bay news and events!