The swan grazing conflict in chalk rivers

Authors: Wood, K.A., Stillman, R.A., Daunt, F. and O'Hare, M.T.

Editors: Redpath, S.M., Gutierrez, R.J. and Young, J.C.

Pages: 134-136

Publisher: Cambridge University press

Within the last 30 years, fisheries and conservation interests have become concerned that the foraging by mute swans Cygnus olor on water crowfoot degrades the habitat of invertebrates, fish and other animals (Wood et al., 2014). Mute swans are a native species and a natural part of the chalk river ecosystem, but the population in Britain has almost doubled since the 1970s. Some sport fisheries organizations have reported declining membership and income due to swan grazing. Thus, a conflict has arisen between conservationists and anglers on one side and those who seek to protect the swans on the other. Moreover, management of this grazing conflict is complicated not only because mute swans are popular with the public but also they are protected under both the EU Wild Birds Directive (79/409/EEC) and the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981. However, there has been little research into swan grazing damage to plants or management options to alleviate the conflict. The few management options that have been explored by stakeholders, such as egg removal and behavioural modifications, have not been successful in preventing grazing damage (Maudsley, 1996; Parrott and McKay, 2001; Watola et al., 2003). Furthermore, early in the conflict there were incidences of illegal shooting of swans, which did nothing to solve the conflict but illustrate the potential problems which can occur when certain groups feel that no action is being taken towards resolution (Trump et al., 1994).

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