DEC Proposes Killing or Capturing All Mute Swans on Long Island

Mute swans.
Mute swans. Photo credit: Tony Hisgett

It sounds like a hoax, but the New York State Department of Conservation is really pitching a plan to eliminate all free-ranging mute swans from Long Island by 2025.

The swans, with the scientific name cygnus olor, are very familiar to the residents of the East End, with at least one breeding pair taking up residence at nearly every pond, but according to the DEC, the mute swan is an invasive species, brought to North America from Eurasia in the 1800s for their aesthetic value.

According to the DEC, mute swans may cause a number 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.”

Statewide, the DEC said, the mute swan population was placed at 2,800 in 2002 and is estimated to be 2,200 now. Mute swans are the largest birds in New York, with an average adult weight of 20 to 25 pounds and a wing span of nearly 7 feet. These white birds are recognizable by their orange bills with black knobs.

Mute swans are protected by the New York State Environmental Conservation Law, so swans, as well as their nests and eggs, may not be handled or harmed without authorization from the DEC. Some swans would be allowed to remain in captivity.

The plan is still just a draft. Comments may be submitted in writing through February 21 to NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Swan Management Plan, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754 or emailed to [email protected]

This idea comes as East End municipalities are having hearing on a proposal to use USDA sharpshooters to cull the deer population.

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