While the sight of swans swimming peacefully in pairs that mate for life attracts romantics throughout the East End, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation doesn’t see anything romantic about them.
The DEC announced a draft plan last Thursday to kill or capture all of New York’s free-ranging mute swans, the type of swan most commonly seen on Long Island, by 2025.
Mute swans aren’t native to North America. They were imported here in the 1800s from Europe and Asia because people thought they were beautiful.
But, according to the DEC’s proposal, “mute swans can cause a variety of problems, including exhibiting aggressive behavior towards people, destruction of submerged aquatic vegetation, displacement of native wildlife species, degradation of water quality and potential hazards to aviation.”
If the plan is approved, the DEC would allow property owners to oil, puncture, shake or freeze mute swan eggs; destroy their nests; sterilize the birds; shoot them; or capture them and take them to be euthanized or turned over to people licensed to keep the birds in captivity.
The plan would also allow for DEC-licensed people to capture free-ranging swans and keep them in captivity. Currently, there are some commercial breeders who sell juvenile mute swans for ornamental purposes for up to $1,500 a pair. Swans would no longer be allowed to be bred in captivity in New York.
The plan calls for the state to ban the importation of swans into New York and prohibit the release of captive swans.
Concern about the proposal has begun to grow on the East End. After the Stony Brook Southampton Coastal and Estuarine Research Program posted information about the proposal on their Facebook page yesterday, a chorus of people chimed in in opposition.
“Our school system is stressed from lack funds and our tax dollars are going to killing swans,” said April Hannan. “This is embarrassing. Where are the priorities? If our politicians can’t answer with a simple yes or no to supporting this, I won’t be voting for them.”
“It’s the Canadian Geese leaving fecal matter in the parks, schoolyards and playing fields. Canadian geese involved in air strikes bringing down planes,” said Kathleen Vize Schoendorf. “Canadian Geese defecating in ponds, creating hypoxic conditions. Canadian geese who are no longer migratory. Tens of thousands of Canadian geese are the problem, not the 2,200 swans in NYS.”
“Kill the swans. They are a natural predator of the North Pacific Tree Octopus which have been declining in numbers over the last few years,” joked Mike DeGeorge.
The DEC is accepting written comments on the draft mute swan plan through February 21, 2014 at NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Swan Management Plan, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Type “Swan Plan” in the subject line.