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Martinez swan extermination rumor false

By E. CLARK
Martinez Tribune

MARTINEZ, Calif. – For the last couple of years, Martinez Marina has been home to two majestic swans. Sometimes they can be viewed out near the end of the pier being photographed and admired by onlookers. Other times they’ve been known to slip up on the boats docked at the marina, basking for an admiring public.

So when news of the swans’ impending extermination made its way around town, residents were up in arms.

“Everybody at the marina would be a big force behind them not getting exterminated,” said Tim Saey, who’s lived on his boat at the marina for the last four years.

Saey had heard, along with many others, that Martinez City Council was reviewing the possibility of either relocating or exterminating the birds because they were allegedly feeding on eggs of resident geese and ducks.

“I’ve seen seagulls come by and eat hatchlings – that’s just what they do. But swans are peaceful. All they do is feed on bottom plants,” Saey said.

Harbor Master Olivia Ortega had also heard about the swans’ alleged fate, and said she’d be happy to sign a petition against their relocation or elimination. “They mate for life. They’re a beautiful addition to the marina. I know they’re not native, but they’ve brought along a really nice effect to the marina. I don’t understand why they’d need to be gotten rid of,” Ortega said.

Several other residents contacted the Tribune for more information on the swan situation, but nobody could point to a source. And when the Tribune contacted officials to confirm the veracity of the information, none had any knowledge of the rumor.

“It is amazing what the Martinez rumor mill can come up with. How do people come up with this stuff?” said Mayor Rob Schroder in an email response. “There is absolutely no truth to this rumor. And it should be noted that most of the property on the west side of North Court Street is EBRPD (East Bay Regional Park District) land. [The] City is on the East. I doubt that EBRPD would condone the extermination of any wildlife on their lands.”

Carolyn Jones, public information supervisor for EBRPD, confirmed the mayor’s statement. “[Park staff] haven’t seen swans around, and even if they did, the last thing they’d do is harm them,” Jones said.

The swans, identified as European Mute Swans that likely left a private pond before coming to rest at the marina, first appeared in Martinez around Thanksgiving in 2014. The birds feast on aquatic vegetation and sometimes aquatic animals, but when food sources run short, they’ve been known to take to flooded agricultural fields such as those in the Bay-Delta region.

While it’s unknown if the swans are a mating pair, the conditions at Waterfront Park make for excellent nesting grounds. The species prefers shallow water surrounded by vegetation, and they often live in single pairs close to ducks and gulls. Cygnets, or young swans, have not been spotted alongside the pair.

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