Swan Song?


Whether resulting from an impulsive act of misguided youth or a crackpot's lack of compunction, the recent assaults on trumpling swans at one of Columbia's lakes is nothing short of viciousness. After one swan was apparently stolen from Lake Kittamaqundi last September, another had its feathers spray-painted last month.

So, officials this week moved the remaining four swans from the lake to guard their safety. They were transported to a preserve and research center in central Virginia, and for awhile it seemed that one of the planned city's most pleasant amenities would be gone forever.

Two days later, however, two new swans were placed on the lake. They are mutes rather than trumplings, which are hybrids of the trumpeter and tundra swans. But they are as beautiful. What they are not is friendly to humans, which the trumplings were. In fact, that friendliness is what endangered the trumplings, as they ventured out of the water in search of handouts and were even spotted crossing busy Little Patuxent Parkway en route to the parking lot of the Columbia Mall for more crumbs.

That one group of swans was so quickly replaced by another shows how widely adored are these creatures. Their majestic forms gliding across the lake would certainly have been missed almost immediately. As a fixture of the community, they drew families with small children as well as young lovers out for a stroll. The community had even given them names.

Placing the two mutes on the lake is a temporary solution. Officials are looking at the possibility of bringing back new trumplings next spring. That, of course, would not address the exasperating tendency of some people to do harm to animals.

Ironically, one of the acts that people do out of kindness to the swans might actually protect them if it can be stopped.

The Columbia Association is considering an education program involving signs with the central message, "Please, do not feed the swans." As tempting as it is to toss bread crumbs to the swans, it also encourages them to seek out human contact even if that means leaving the confines of the lake.

For their safety, and so residents are not deprived of their presence, we should enjoy these creatures from a respectful distance.

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