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

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 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“The DEC’s plan to drastically reduce the state’s mute swan population continues to rely on outdated and immaterial research,” they added.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.



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

2 thoughts on “Revised Plan to Manage Mute Swans Called into Question

  1. Besides the science the DEC cites there is something missing from there equation.

    Mute Swans, although they are an introduced species, connect the average person to nature. By that I mean when a person sees a M Swan on a lake, pond, bay or inlet it is the first thing they notice and they are delighted to see it. People may decide to learn more about their own natural areas. When this happens people get interested in enjoying and protecting the natural world that’s around them. The Swans serve us well in this regard

    BTW: There are less than 2500 Mute Swans in all of NYS. Linda & I counted more than that number of Canada Geese along the roads & fields of the hamlet of Mattituck NY during last winter’s NYS Winter Waterfowl Count. Okay NYS-DEC let’s get our priorities correct before you “make work” for what’s really a non-issue compared to other problems you should be addressing. rk

  2. I have a lot of suggestions and I don’t think harming them is a way to deal with it . There are ways to deal with them like the geese . I have been dealing with Geese and Wildlife for years and I never harm the animals .

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