Brooklynites to state: Don't kill our swans!

Brooklyn Currents | 2/03/2014 | 0 comments

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is planning a mass slaughter of the majestic mute swans that grace the water environs of Sheepshead Bay, Prospect Park, and other habitats around Brooklyn and the rest of New York State.

Why? Because the DEC has decided that these swans are a "prohibited invasive species" that is eating too much of the food needed by ducks and other red-blooded American  fowl.

The swans – called "mute" because they don't make as much noise as most other swans – were introduced into North America from Europe and Asia about 130 years ago.

Many Brooklyn residents and politicians are decrying the DEC's plans to shoot or gas some 2,200 of these graceful birds. Brooklyn Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz and Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst, L.I.) are drafting a letter to the DEC to urge the agency to seek other ways of controlling the mute-swan population.

And Queens State Senator Tony Avella has introduced a bill  imposing a two-year moratorium on the DEP's plan.

 Here is Cymbrowitz' press release:


Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn), a member of the Assembly's Environmental Conservation Committee, will be working with Suffolk County Assemblyman and committee chair Robert Sweeney to convince the state Department of Environmental Conservation to seek an alternative to its plan to shoot or gas the state's 2,200 mute swans by 2025.

The swans destroy habitat for native ducks and geese, which is why DEC has proposed declaring the birds a "prohibited invasive species." They've also been known to behave aggressively toward people.

Still, the elegant and graceful birds are as iconic to Sheepshead Bay as the Emmons Avenue promenade and fishing boats, says Assemblyman Cymbrowitz.

"There are other ways of dealing with the swan population that are non-lethal," Assemblyman Cymbrowitz said. He said that he and Assemblyman Sweeney will be working with DEC to make sure that "any and all alternatives are thoroughly explored" before the agency issues its final verdict on the swans later this year.

"As a society, we need to co-exist with all of our neighbors. The state's immediate reaction to dealing with a troublesome species shouldn't be to murder it," he said.


Here is a recent op-ed in the Daily News by Jeffrey Kramer, a volunteer with GooseWatch NYC, which has petitioned the DEC (through to annul the plan:

Next time you go to your favorite park to see those large, white birds of regal repose, better bring a camera. You may never see them again. New York State's mute swan may become the first animal to be managed into extinction by 2025. This proposed, premeditated extirpation is the endgame of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) newly released draft "Management Plan for Mute Swans in New York State," calling for the elimination of all free-ranging mute swans.

The plan is fallacious and insidious, another misuse of taxpayer monies to promote killing and molestation as a wildlife management science. The DEC states that their population of 2,200 has actually stabilized.

       Seized from its native lands, the mute swan has become our neighbor for the past 130 years since being shanghaied to this country because of its timeless beauty. It has been a fixture in the imagination of man since early civilization, but also has been persecuted for almost as long.
       The DEC's justification for its scheduled disappearance — using deceptive language and misconceptions — is almost identical to the reasons given for the slaughter of over 5,000 resident Canada geese (a native, North American bird) in New York City: a potential aviation hazard (birdstrikes); aggression while nesting (ironically, the mute swan's main target is Canada geese); and loss of water quality from coliform bacteria. Here, the DEC, along with its cooperator, the USDA-Wildlife Services, is killing two birds with one stone.

      But the thrust of the plan is directed to the mute swan's designation as a non-native invasive species — it supposedly will out-compete and displace other waterfowl (especially those who are already endangered or threatened) by depleting the submerged aquatic vegetation it feeds on.

     Non-native and invasive are distinct concepts. We have many plant and animal species, such as soybeans, citrus trees and cattle who are non-native but not invasive. Some, like the honeybee, are beneficial. South Dakota's state bird is the non-native Ring-necked pheasant. Yet, there are those species who are native, such as the Red-winged blackbird, Double-crested cormorant and white-tailed deer, who display all of the negative attributes (ecological degradation, overabundance and economic harm) of which we attribute to those species branded invasive. A "biological invasion," insofar as to its actual affects in a region, does not have to originate from abroad. The consensus among conservation biologists is that, though a small percentage of non-natives are detrimental causing environmental, economic or human harm, most do not.

      So why, after 130 years, are 2,200 mute swans statewide now on New York State's most wanted list — dead or alive? Because our conservation-minded bureaucracies at the federal and state level are having a tough time trying to save those waterfowl we have displaced by over-hunting and over-development while maintaining perpetual game bird species to keep hunters' bags replenished. The only threat New York's mute swan presence is the conservation of the American Sportsman.

Without unequivocal evidence, let's not kill-off one animal population feigning that we are helping to save another. And It is us who still have to become "naturalized."


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