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Sep 12, 2017 4:11 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

State DEC ReleasesThird Draft Of Mute Swan Management Plan; Won't Cull Swans On Long Island

Mute swans. DANA SHAW
Sep 12, 2017 4:44 PM

The State Department of Environmental Conservation has once again revised its plans for managing non-native populations of mute swans, which it once planned to eradicate entirely from the wild, statewide.

The state now says that it will focus on non-lethal methods of limiting the growth of the swan population on Long Island, where the birds were introduced in the 1800s, and will try to avoid lethal methods upstate when possible.

Unveiled in 2013 as a statewide cull of all 2,000 mute swans that live in the wild, the latest draft of the management plan still allows for the killing of swans upstate despite a deluge of criticism.

Two years ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo twice vetoed bills approved by legislators that would have barred the state from doing swan culls by declaring swans a protected invasive species.

The DEC’s scientists have been adamant that mute swans are a highly destructive invasive species in New York. The birds are voracious consumers of aquatic plant life and out-compete native species, and their large nests and aggressive behavior can drive native species out of critical nesting areas.

The birds also are nearly as famous for their nasty temperament toward people as they are for their lithe beauty when gliding by at a distance.

The latest plan for Long Island’s 1,500-plus swans calls for efforts to minimize growth of the flock, not to reduce or eliminate it. Some nests may be “addled”—the eggs coated with oil so that the embryos inside do not develop and hatch—a practice that also has drawn condemnation from animal rights advocates. Some swans may be captured and relocated out of the state from areas of high density.

“Wildlife management can present challenges in trying to balance conflicting interests, such as when a beautiful bird can have harmful impacts,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a recent statement on the swan management plan.

“DEC’s revised draft management plan is responsive to the public’s concerns about complete elimination of mute swans from New York, taking a more regional approach to management,” he continued. “The plan should limit the potential future impacts of mute swans on native wildlife as well as human enjoyment of the state’s aquatic resources. At the same time, the plan emphasizes non-lethal management techniques, in direct response to public concerns about how and where management is accomplished.”

State legislators are still unconvinced that swans must be controlled so aggressively, and that killing them is justified.

“I still find [lethal methods] unacceptable,” State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said on Monday. “We may get calls of wildlife concerns from constituents regarding deer, but I’ve never gotten a call from anyone saying, ‘Those mute swans are bothering me—someone should do something about it.’”

The DEC will be accepting comments on the latest revision to its swan plans at three publhc meetings this month and next, the first of which is being held at the Suffolk County Water Authority headquarters in Hauppauge on September 19.

Staff writer Jon Winkler contributed to this story.

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Nice to hear
By johnj (687), Westhampton on Sep 13, 17 2:59 PM
I've known you for over thirty years Fred and have supported you through thick and thin. However your statement " I’ve never gotten a call from anyone saying, ‘Those mute swans are bothering me—someone should do something about it." is just plain political pandering. Many of those complaining about the deer were dead set against culling until their expensive landscaping was reduced to stubble. then they turned around and wanted the herd eliminated. That's what I ran into when running ...more
By Just sitting on the taffrail (14), Southampton on Sep 14, 17 6:42 PM
If these swans are discouraging other bird species / ducks and such to stay away from their turf, its time they go.

By Summer Resident (208), Southampton N.Y. on Sep 15, 17 3:01 AM
There is no such thing as an "invasive species". These swans were brought here without their permission or consent. Now that they're here, we need to give them food, veterinary care and a free education. A portion of our property taxes should be set aside to address their needs.
By dfree (317), hampton bays on Sep 15, 17 7:16 AM
Wait, what are we talking about? I meant to say that we should protect our native duck species, get rid of the illegal invading fowls!
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