It looks like the swans won’t be killed. Or at least if they are killed, it will now come as a last resort.
Legislation has passed both houses of the state Legislature that would prioritize non-lethal methods of controlling the free-ranging mute swan population.
The measure comes less than six months after the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation announced that it wanted every mute swan in the state killed or captured by the year 2025.
The plan created an uproar after it was released in January, with many caught off guard and much of the public incensed that the swan — first brought from overseas by the wealthy class in the late 1800s for its beauty — was target for eradication.
Scientific basis for eliminating the species in New York, state officials said, rests upon the fact that the swan’s survival threatens an endangered species — the black tern.
In addition, the mute swan’s diet consists mainly of submerged aquatic vegetation, so they can deplete ecosystems of important resources, while discharging waste that further degrades water quality.
Legislation passed in both the Assembly and Senate this week calls for at least two public hearings, as well as information backing up the scientific basis for reducing the herd. Any plan would have to give preference to non-lethal management techniques, according to the bill.
“Many wildlife experts, rehabilitators and environmentalists do not agree that exterminating the mute swan population is justified,” said Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), who co-sponsored the legislation. North Fork Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo voted in favor of the bill as well.
“In addition, there is debate amongst such experts about whether the planned eradication of the mute swan population is even minimally beneficial to the eco-system or to our environment,” Mr. Thiele said. “Therefore, it is incumbent on the Department of Environmental Conservation to consider non-lethal management techniques with regard to the mute swan.”
Another bill, sponsored by state Senator Ken LaValle passed the upper house of the New York State Legislature on Wednesday, would put a halt on adopting the Draft Mute Swan Management Plan in its tracks while a committee studies the issue.
That bill is currently making its way through the Assembly.
There are approximately 2,200 mute swans in the state, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation, which are expected to reproduce at a rate of 13 to 20 percent annually.