Citizens Speak Up for Mute Swans

In December 2013, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) released a Draft Management Plan for Mute Swans that called for complete eradication of all 2,200 birds from the state of New York by 2025. Lethal control of the swans would be conducted by hunters, private property owners, USDA Wildlife Services, and several local agencies.

Particularly shocking is the plan’s encouragement for members of the public to kill the birds or pluck them from the wild and keep them in captivity. The plan authorized property owners to use methods that arguably require some training and expertise, such as sterilization, shooting, and “capture and removal of swans to be euthanized or turned over to persons licensed to keep the birds in captivity.” No specific guidelines were provided regarding how to properly capture these birds, what types of facilities would be appropriate for holding them in captivity, and if these facilities would be inspected.

AWI and many of its members spoke up, commenting that the plan was not only inhumane, but did not comply with state legal requirements. Specifically, the NYDEC has an obligation to comply with the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQR) for projects like this and must produce an environmental impact statement first in order to assess the significance of eradicating all mute swans in the state.

Fortunately, after receiving thousands of comments and various petitions in February of this year, the NYDEC decided to change course. The agency announced that it would revise the plan and consider non-lethal means for population management. Meanwhile, state legislators are also penning legislation or co-sponsoring existing bills to establish moratoriums on implementing the draft plan to lethally control and eradicate the swans. AWI will continue to monitor the issue and alert members during the next public comment period, which is expected in the spring of 2015.

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