Legislators ask DEC to hold off on mute swan plan

02/16/2014 8:01 AM |
The DEC aims to kill or capture all mute swans by 2025. (Vera Chinese file photo)

The DEC aims to kill or capture all mute swans by 2025. (Vera Chinese file photo)

The proposed death sentence for New York State’s muted swans would get a two-year reprieve under a plan co-sponsored by South Fork Assemblyman Fred Thiele. 

The state Department of Environmental Conservation recently unveiled a “Draft Mute Swan Management Plan” that would “eliminate free-ranging mute swans from New York by 2025.”

But legislation sponsored by Mr. Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) and state senators Tony Avella (D-Queens) and Steve Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn) would require the DEC to demonstrate the actual damage to the environment or other species that have been caused by the estimated 2,200 mute swans across the state, most of which are on Long Island and in the lower Hudson Valley area.

“Wildlife experts, rehabilitators and environmentalists do not unanimously agree that exterminating the mute swan population is justified,” Mr. Thiele said in a press release issued Saturday. “In addition, there is debate among such experts about whether the planned eradication of the mute swan population is even minimally beneficial to the eco-system or to our environment. Therefore, it is incumbent on the Department of Environmental Conservation to illustrate the necessity of eradicating this non-native species by demonstrating the actual damage to the environment or other species caused by mute swans.”

The DEC plan states that mute swans are “a non-native, invasive species, brought to North America from Eurasia for ornamental purposes in the late 1800s,” and that they “can cause a variety of problems, including aggressive behavior towards people, destruction of submerged aquatic vegetation, displacement of native wildlife species, degradation of water quality, and potential hazards to aviation.”

The DEC proposal would authorize any property owner, land or water management authority, municipality or other responsible party to control or remove mute swans from their property for any reason.

The proposal states: “Various control methods may be authorized, including but not limited to: oiling, puncturing, shaking, freezing, replacing or removing eggs; destruction of nests; sterilization of birds; shooting; and capture and removal of swans to be euthanized or turned over to persons licensed to keep the birds in captivity.”

Mr. Thiele said the muted swans are often visible in local ponds and waterways on the East End and he hasn’t heard any complaints about them.

“My office has not received one report in all my years in office that the mute swan is a nuisance or an environmental problem,” Mr. Thiele said. “This legislation will require all concerned to take a step back and take a hard look before any irrevocable action is taken by the DEC.”

tgannon@timesreview.com