Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why did the swan cross the road?

All loss of life is just that, a loss. Sometimes it fits neatly into the circle of life, and sometimes it stands out like a tear in the fabric.

A freshly killed mute swan, only a hundred yards down the road from my house, makes you wonder where it fits into that equation. Clearly a tragic fate for a grand and beautiful bird, but if you're familiar with the problem with mute swans as an invasive species, muscling out the more timid, native, trumpeter swan, I found myself thinking of it as a tipping of the scale, even though I realize road-killed mute swans have absolutely no bearing on the real balance of populations.

It's funny how our feelings towards a species change when we have backstory about their character and role in ecology. People who know nothing about mute swans adore the animal, where as people who are ecologically informed often despise them. It's kind of like discovering a well loved sports figure beats and kills dogs in his spare time.

Perhaps the most telling fact to come out of my discovery of the dead swan was how motorists responded to the situation. First of all, it was a motorist who hit, and killed, the swan, and didn't stop to remove the animal from the road. Secondly, the whole time I was laying on the ground filming the swan, not a single car stopped to pull the swan out of the road. The only person to stop, did so because they thought I was injured on the side of the road. Like human road kill.

It took a 911 call to usher in a Kalamazoo Township officer who arrived on the scene and finally dragged the carcass off the road. The caller reported seeing a "suspicious looking package" in the middle of the road.

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