Mute swan public hearing set for input on DEC management plan

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will host a public hearing Oct. 26 to give residents a chance to discuss a revised mute swan management plan.

The plan emphasizes non-lethal approaches, according to the DEC. Managing the non-native invasive species has been a point of controversy in recent years. When the DEC floated its first plan in 2014, calling for eradication of all mute swans statewide, pushback came from lawmakers and thousands of residents.

A second version of the plan published in 2015 was also met with criticism.

“DEC’s draft plan includes strategies to contain and minimize the impacts of free-ranging mute swans and describes a three-part, regionalized approach that emphasizes non-lethal management,” the DEC said in a statement. “The plan includes public education and outreach about the status and ecological impacts of mute swans, efforts to foster responsible possession and care of mute swans, and strategies for managing feral mute swan populations.”

Mute swans were originally imported from Europe as captive birds in the 1800s to beautify private estates in the Hudson Valley and on Long Island. Mute swans are not protected under federal law.

Scientists have been concerned about that mute swans have been uprooting and consuming aquatic vegetation that native fish and other species need to survive. These swans have also been known to displace native birds from their territories, especially during nesting periods, and, in extreme cases, swans may attack and kill ducklings, goslings or other small water birds, according the draft plan.

Mute swans also have little to no fear of humans, and may attack if someone gets too close to their young. High populations can also lead to fecal matter contaminating local waters with bacteria, making them unsafe for humans to swim in.

The DEC feels the need to control the population growth by informing the public about these the ecological effects, asking people to stop feeding swans and preventing the reproduction of captive mute swans and the release of mute swans into the wild. DEC Wildlife staff surveyed the mute swan population on both forks of Long Island from Moriches Bay east in August and estimates the population at 700 swans.

The draft plan was released for public review and comment on Sept. 6; the comment period runs through Dec. 13. Comments can be submitted in person, by mail or by email to [email protected].

The public hearing will be held at the Suffolk County Water Authority Education Center in Hauppauge at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26. The original public hearing was originally set for Sept. 19 but was pushed back due to inclement weather.

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