Ask Eddy: Swan Hate

Eddy's Got Answers: Are swans a danger to paddlers? And legally could you eat your dead friend for survival?

Illustration by Aaron McKinney
Illustration by Aaron McKinney

Can swans be dangerous to paddlers?

(WARNING: This article contains information about swans, which may trigger emotional distress in people whose mothers once survived exclusively on swan eggs for cultish purposes and forced young Eddy to harvest the eggs.) In 2012, a Chicago man drowned when he was knocked from his kayak and pummeled by a mute swan. He was not wearing a lifejacket. Authorities believe that the swan was defending a nest site. "All swans can be dangerous during nesting season," sniffs Madeline Link, of the Trumpeter Swan Society. The male of the breeding pair will attack predators and even hapless humans who happen to encroach on the nesting area, pecking with their beaks and using their wings to batter the victim. Don't let the elegant bearing fool you; beneath those snowy white feathers lies 30 pounds of muscle and avian aggression. "Mute swans are big and powerful enough to kill dogs with their wings," Link says, "and the male might patrol a pretty large area." Mute swans, a species introduced from Europe, are more common in populous areas—the places from which they may have escaped captivity—but native trumpeter swans can be even larger than the mute swans. The good news: Both species behave aggressively only during nesting season, meaning spring and summer—or the "hungry months" as Mother used to call them. Other times of year, they'll generally avoid humans, swimming away if approached. Whatever the season, if you see a swan gliding menacingly toward your canoe from out of the weeds, best to turn tail and get.

If I had to eat my dead friend to survive, would I face legal problems?

(WARNING: This article contains the word 'attorney,' which may trigger emotional distress in just about everyone.) According to an online story from Backpacker magazine, 43 percent of respondents to a recent poll would eat a dead friend if it would help them survive in the wilderness. The story went on to describe the best body parts to eat, if necessary, and settled on the thighs, triceps and buttocks—basically any place where it's easy to grab a big hunk of flesh and slice it into the fry pan. That's all fine and good by Eddy, who believes no roadkill should ever go to waste, whatever the species (especially swans), and who knows that if he had any friends, they'd want him to survive rather than turn up his nose at the notion of chomping a little man-cheek. But what about this great 'society' of ours? Would you survive the empty wasteland only to be shut behind bars? "In Oregon, it is a felony to dismember, mutilate or otherwise cut up a corpse," says Portland attorney Eddie Medina. "However, under a choice of evils defense, the cannibal could argue that he had to eat his buddy to avoid imminent injury (starvation). If your canoe was full of food, and you still ate your dead buddy, you would have a problem."

— Got a question for Eddy? Email it to AskEddy@canoekayak.com

See more of Eddy’s answers.