New York plans to eradicate mute swans

Mute Swan Male Mute Swan (Cygnus Olor).Picardy, France. (Photo by BSIP/UIG via Getty Images)
Mute swans pose an environmental hazard, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation. Credit: BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is considering a plan to kill or capture all free-ranging mute swans by 2025.

While swans are often seen as being beautiful and elegant birds, they can also cause a variety of problems, according to the DEC. These include “aggressive behavior towards people, destruction of submerged aquatic vegetation, displacement of native wildlife species, degradation of water quality and potential hazards to aviation.”

The DEC proposed declaring the swans a “prohibited invasive species.” According to a draft plan completed last month, the department aims to immediately prevent further expansion of the species and to eliminate the existing birds by 2025.

“DEC will authorize any property owner, land or water management authority, municipality or other responsible party to control or remove mute swans from their property for any reason,” the plan reads.

“Various control methods may be authorized, including but not limited to: oiling, puncturing, shaking, freezing, replacing or removing eggs; destruction of nests; sterilization of birds; shooting; and capture and removal of swans to be euthanized or turned over to persons licensed to keep the birds in captivity.”

There are about 2,200 mute swans in the state, according to the DEC. The species first made its way over to the U.S. when they were brought here from Europe in the late 1800s for their aesthetic value. They are the largest birds in New York, weighing about 20 to 25 pounds, and sporting a wing span of nearly 7 feet.

The largest populations of mute swans live on Long Island and in the lower Hudson Valley.

The DEC is accepting public comments on the plan until Feb. 21.


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