Mute swans now have a voice among the public and the state legislature in response to the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s revised plan to control the population of these birds, which are commonly seen on Long Island but are not native to this area.
The DEC announced in March of 2014 that they planned to kill or capture all of New York’s 2,000-plus free-ranging mute swans, the type of swan most commonly seen on Long Island, by 2025.
But, after tremendous public outcry, the state legislature nixed the plan, and the DEC unveiled an updated plan this March that, while it does not outright call for killing of swans, still calls for the dramatic reduction of their population, through the addling of swan eggs or the capture of the birds and transportation to captivity.
An awful lot of people don’t like the revised plan either, and a petition started a month ago on change.org has garnered nearly 4,000 signatures opposing it.
According to Goosewatch NYC, which started the petition, “the revised plan does not go nearly far enough in protecting mute swans, and we oppose its implementation…. Though the revised proposal takes a regional approach, free-ranging mute swans remain threatened across the state under the DEC’s new plan…because DEC would require strict control of mute swans through wing-clipping, sterilization, and other birth control methods.”
“The DEC’s plan to drastically reduce the state’s mute swan population continues to rely on outdated and immaterial research,” they added. “New studies are needed to justify any control or killing. We remain strongly opposed to designation of mute swans as an invasive species, a subjective determination, and we remain concerned with the DEC’s objectives to completely eliminate free-ranging mute swans from New York State.”
A bill to place a moratorium on the DEC’s plan to label mute swans a “prohibited invasive species” passed the State Senate by a 60-1 vote on April 22, but the State Assembly has not yet voted on the bill in their chamber.
New York State Assemblyman Steve Engelbright, the chair of the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee, opposes the new plan. He and East End Assemblyman Fred Thiele are among the co-sponsors of the Assembly version of the bill.
In a letter to the DEC last week, Mr. Engelbright said the revised plan “appears to disregard the Legislature’s key requests—that of full documentation of the scientific basis for management decisions, future mute swan population projections and environmental damage (both current and projected) and less reliance on lethal management measures.
“The DEC has failed to provide compelling scientific information as to why such an aggressive management strategy is being pursued. While the mute swan is an introduced species, the specific threats cited in the revised Management Plan are not supported with scientific evidence,” he added. “In cases where information is provided it is often outdated or overstated. For example, the statement “Swan feces contain especially high levels of fecal coliform bacteria, so the presence of large flocks at certain times could impair the use of waters for drinking, swimming or shell fishing” is justified by a single study conducted almost forty years ago that included only 44 birds (some of which were Canada geese).”
The DEC’s information page on the updated plan is online here.