Under DEC’s revised plans, mute swans could be killed as ‘last resort’

A mute swan mother with her cygnets in East Marion last year. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)
A mute swan mother with her cygnets in East Marion last year. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)

A newly revised state Department of Environmental Conservation plan to deal with mute swan populations in the state would focus on non-lethal management of their numbers on Long Island, only calling for lethal methods as a “last resort.”

That’s still too often for some, including state Senator Ken LaValle. 

“I am pleased that the DEC has heard our concerns and has begun to move in the right direction,” he said in a statement. “However, the plan still allows for the destruction of these birds on Long Island in certain circumstances.  Mute Swans should only be destroyed as the absolute last resort, and only when they are posing public danger.”

The DEC’s original plan called for the killing or capture of all free-ranging swans in the state within 10 years. The agency cited the swan’s aggressive behavior and destruction of aquatic plants as reasons for the cull.

But state lawmakers, animal rights groups and thousands of residents pushed back, demanding the DEC nix the eradication plans. During a public comment period that closed last year, more than 1,500 comments, 16,000 form letters and 30,000 signatures in petitions were sent to the DEC, according to a response posted in August.

The revised plan stresses non-lethal management of swan populations to “minimize the potential adverse impacts of mute swans on native wildlife and their habitats.” Under the plan, swans would either be relocated or have their populations on Long Island kept steady using techniques like nest destruction or terminating fertilized eggs.

Swan killing would only be allowed in designated wildlife management areas, when the swans “threaten public safety” — like nesting near airports — or “interfere with the intended use of lands or waters by their aggressive behavior,” according to the plan.

The proposal also calls for more public outreach and education, like telling residents not to feed the birds, and would also ban the sale or purchase of swans.

The DEC is accepting comments from the public on the revised plan through April 24. For more info on how to add your say, visit the DEC’s website.

[email protected]