Mute swans collared for DEC research | DEC photo
Mute swans collared for DEC research | DEC photo

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 Type “Swan Plan” in the subject line.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at

4 thoughts on “DEC Hatches Plan to Kill Mute Swans

  1. Our rehabilitated swan Sadie was found on Goldsmith’s Inlet Monday.
    Wondering why the DEC is expending so many resources and spending so much money to eradicate the problems posed by the Mute Swan when the real problem is the Canada Goose. There were 2200 Mute Swan in the entire state in 2008.
    At 4 Pm on Monday we counted close to that number flying in and landing on the fields along Oregon Road. Yes the Swan is aggressive in defending it’s nest, so is the C Goose. Both pose a threat to aircraft with C Geese being by far the greater danger. When it comes to polluting the environment and posing a threat to shellfishing then I would suggest that 2200 Swan are the least of your problems. What is the DEC plan to deal with the exploding problem of the Canada Goose ? Making a big media splash about the Mute Swan is just ‘window dressing’ and accomplishes nothing about the real problem while leading the public to think the DEC is proactive in protecting them. Sounds like make-do work to me.

  2. A world without swans would be sad indeed.
    In the swans’ defense I offer this poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay

    Wild Swans

    I looked in my heart while the wild swans went over.
    And what did I see I had not seen before?
    Only a question less or a question more;
    Nothing to match the flight of wild birds flying.
    tiresome heart, forever living and dying,
    House without air, I leave you and lock your door
    Wild swans, come over the town, come over
    The town again, trailing your legs and crying!

    1. Most beautiful passage from Millay. Why does man want to destroy that which it should love ? I don’t understand.

      The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said:
      Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
      Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
      And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present;
      the result being that he does not live in the present or the future;
      he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

  3. As a resident of Long Island, NY all of my life I thought I’d seen it all – town contract kickbacks, the highest paid cops in the country, ineffective teachers who earn six figure incomes and can’t be fired, railroad workers on disability playing golf all day – all funded by my insanely high taxes. Now the DEC wants to kill all swans and use my money to do it? As a taxpayer I am furious; as a lover of wildlife I am sickened and ashamed to live here. Lest anyone mistake the true motive – it’s all about money for game licenses and pandering to the gun-lovers who are behind this campaign. It’s anything but “conservation”. The duck hunters who get their jollies hiding in straw-covered kayaks blasting their shotguns in the wetlands behind my neighborhood and the DEC who allows this to happen within a stone throw of my house aren’t satisfied with small game. No, they want “trophy fowl”. Enter the Mute Swan, whose numbers are in the low thousands compared to the 20 million people who live in NY. Why stop at the Swans? How about Snowy Egrets, Blue Herons, Oystercatchers, and Black Cormorants that are just now rebounding after succumbing to near extinction by these hunters. The DEC’s arguments against the Mute Swan are so contrived that they insult the intelligence of a 10 year old. Most animals, even humans, are aggressive when protecting their young. When was the last time a swan took an airplane down? It’s usually a seagull or goose. Water quality degradation? How about all the nitrogen fertilizer, human waste, industrial runoff, and even nuclear contamination in our watersheds the NYS government has ignored. The swans are an invasive species because they were brought here in the late 1800’s? Well with that logic, about 90% of Americans should be considered invasive

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