Swans face cruel fate in fight to save bay area

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William Butler Yeats would be horrified. Environmentalists in America have proposed tackling a massive overpopulation of mute swans by clipping their wings and pairing them off for life in barren, same-sex couplings. They say the plan may not inspire poetry – certainly not that penned by Yeats in "The Wild Swans at Coole" ("Unwearied still, lover by lover, They paddle in the cold, Companionable streams or climb the air") – but it might just stop the swans getting the chop.

"I call it my life partners solution – we're very correct about our terminology," Dr William Sladden told The New York Times. The plan has emerged as one way of dealing with an overpopulation of swans in Maryland's Cheasepeake Bay, where environmentalists say the birds are devouring grasses vital to the ecosystem.

Dr Sladden, who works for a private environmental group near Warrenton, Virginia, said he has set 54 pairs of same-sex swans on private lakes or wetlands with less sensitive ecosystems. Paul Peditto, director of the wildlife and heritage service of Maryland's department of natural resources, said: "Our intention is not to eradicate them but to minimise [their] impact."