Saving the swans

Swan song: State targets elegant, invasive birds for eradication
They're coming for you, feathered friend…

Sheepshead Bay’s swans may not be headed for the gas chamber anytime soon, after all.

A bill that would delay for at least two years a plan to shoot or gas the state’s Mute Swan population passed the Assembly last week and is poised to glide through the Senate later this month.

Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz (D–Sheepshead Bay) has been pushing the bill though Albany since he learned that the state Department of Environmental Conservation deems the swans a “prohibited invasive species” and wants to exterminate the elegant birds that are so common in his district.

Companion legislation to his Cymbrowitz’s Assembly bill is expected to pass the state senate soon, according to a spokeswoman for its sponsor, state Sen. Tony Avella (D–Queens).

“The senator has every confidence the bill will pass before the legislative session ends in three weeks,” said Anna Aulvola, Avella’s deputy chief of staff.

Mute swans — though a common sight in Sheepshead Bay — are not native to the United States and harm or displace native wildlife, the state contends.

The Assembly and state Senate bills would impose a two-year moratorium on the slaughter, and require the state to produce an environmental study proving the swans are causing harm. The legislation also compels the state to hold two public hearings on the matter and respond in writing to any substantial comments.

Swan advocates lauded the pols for sticking their necks out for the swans.

“We’re incredibly grateful that our elected officials have heard and responded to the public outcry against the extermination plan and stepped in to protect these beloved animals, and we hope to see the moratorium become law,” said David Karopkin, who heads the bird advocacy group GooseWatch NYC.

A management plan could still include non-lethal control measures like tampering with eggs or allowing private individuals to adopt and sterilize the birds, but some bird lovers worry that hunters and game preserves might try to adopt the swans to become sport-shooting targets.

Karopkin said any plan that could lead to killing swans should be dead in the water.

“We are tired of the DEC’s kill-first mentality and policies. Whether it’s geese, swans, turkeys, bears, or deer, slaughtering these animals is not the answer, especially when based on exaggerated threats and without serious consideration of non-lethal alternatives,” he said.

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
Swans won't have to hitchhike to Canada if the state Assembly has its way.
Illustration by John Napoli

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