Swans are safe from the state — for now

Live to fly again: Mute swans will get two more years before the state tries to kill them again.
File photo by Anne-Katrin Titze

Sheepshead Bay’s mute swans have cheated death for another two years.

Gov. Cuomo, inset, signed a bill on Nov. 28 ordering the state to hold off its plan to kill the fowl while it completes a study proving whether they are harmful to the environment as state scientists claim. Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D–Sheepshead Bay) introduced the moratorium bill twice in the past, but Cuomo wouldn’t sign it.

The governor’s office refused to say why he had a change of heart this go-round, but Cymbrowitz thinks Cuomo’s signature is a sign that the birds, which were brought here by immigrants two centuries ago, are tried-and-true New Yorkers now.

“I think they finally realized that mute swans are not an invasive species, they were brought here in the late 1800s, just like many of our parents and grandparents who came here as immigrants,” Cymbrowitz said of the birds, which have become a fixture in Southern Brooklyn’s waterfront since their introduction here.

The Department of Environmental Conservation wants to kill the state’s mute swan population by 2025, because the birds allegedly destroy native plants, displace native wildlife, decrease water quality, and pose a physical danger to other animals including humans, according materials from the state. Under the state’s self-described “management plan,” officials would actively hunt birds upstate, but here in Brooklyn, they would sabotage the birds’ eggs — unless one gets aggressive with a human, then it’s dead meat, officials said.

The moratorium puts off their demise for two years while the agency compiles a report of the damage that the swans have caused to the environment and other species — and holds two public hearings to get feedback about more humane ways to manage the swans, according to the department.

Avian advocates are celebrating the stay of execution and say that it is a sign the state is listening to citizens.

“The DEC underestimated the concern — or rather the passion — that New Yorkers have for wildlife in general and swans in particular,” said David Karopkin.

The state plans to release a new draft of its swan-management plan by the end of January.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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