We’ve heard the plot line a millions times before: humans import pretty / cute / exotic animals as lawn ornaments or conversation pieces, and are surprised when those animals integrate into the local population. The animals breed (*gasp!* how did they know how to do that?!) and before long there are not just a handful of the imported animals, but an actual population.
At some point someone gets it into their head that this is A Bad Thing, and the small population of the non-native species is seen as The Big Bad, and every effort is taken to eradicate that species from the area. It never works, but they never stop trying. The species becomes the scapegoat, because after all the humans don’t want to change their behavior, and so they’d rather blame another species for all the ecological damage.
In Maryland, there is a campaign against Mute Swans. The population had gotten up to a whopping 4,000 a few years ago, which must have put them at something like 0.01% of the bird population in Maryland. Maybe not even that much. But this was seen as too much by the state of Maryland. These birds were single-handedly destroying the marsh grasses of the Cheasapeake Bay! The native Marsh Grasses!
So in the past few years the Powers That Be, in their infinite (lack of) wisdom, have targeted the Mute Swans, killing as many as they can, and destroying as many eggs as they find. The Mute Swan population in Maryland is now estimated at 500.
And that, according to Maryland, is 500 too many. They all must die, to protect those precious grasses, because god knows, there’s not a single other species eating those grasses, and the human impact on the bay can’t possibly be a contributing factor.
The Potomac River, which empties into the Bay, is grossly polluted, with much of DC’s street-side run off and sewage overflow going directly into the river and thus the Bay. But no, that can’t have anything to do with the grasses, can it? It must be the sole responsibility of the Mute Swans.
At some point, we must take responsibility for our own actions, and the incredible damage we inflict on the environment around us. We need to stop blaming animals for existing. And part of that is going to require getting past the obsession with an ideal of a pure “native” ecosystem. When non-native species integrate into a local ecosystem, we have to accept that there is a new ecosystem, which includes these new species.
Ecosystems are not static, and they have a natural way of finding their own equilibrium, which doesn’t necessarily look the way humans decide they want it to look. The ideals of pure “native” ecosystems are absurd, and harmful. It isn’t animals like Mute Swans doing damage to the Chesapeake Bay, it is humans and our destructive pollution.