New York Tones Down Mute Swan Eradication Plan

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) released a revised wild mute swan management plan in which it backs away (somewhat) from its initial proposal to eradicate all 2,200 mute swans, a nonnative species, in the state.

When the initial plan was unveiled, AWI and many of its members sent in comments, saying the proposal was inhumane and failed to comply with the state’s legal duty to first produce an environmental impact statement (see Spring 2014 AWI Quarterly). The flood of negative comments induced the NYDEC to reconsider.

According to an NYDEC press release, the revised plan focuses “on minimizing swan impacts, rather than eliminating all free-flying swans.” It also allows municipalities to keep swans at local parks and other settings pursuant to local swan management plans and promises to consider nonlethal techniques. Nevertheless, the revised plan would still result in the killing of numerous mute swans, and animal welfare activists are not singing its praises.

Last year, New York Sen. Tony Avella introduced a bill in the state legislature that would place a moratorium on mute swan eradication until the NYDEC conducted public hearings, prioritized nonlethal management, and provided scientific evidence of damage caused by mute swans. Concerning the revised plan, Sen. Avella stated that it is “the first step toward a better solution for mute swan management, but it may not be enough.” His bill passed the legislature last year but was vetoed by Governor Cuomo on the basis of NYDEC’s promised plan revision. The bill—which AWI supports—has since been reintroduced.