The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is under fire for plans to eradicate all of the wild mute swans in the state over the next decade.
The swans, who were brought to North America in the 1800s for ornamental purposes, are considered a non-native, invasive species and the state wants them gone. Under the DEC’s newly released draft management plan, an estimated 2,200 free-ranging mute swans will be listed as a prohibited species and will be wiped out by 2025 if the plan’s goal is met.
The DEC cited a number of problems swans can cause as justification for a mass cull, including “aggressive behavior towards people, destruction of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), displacement of native wildlife species, degradation of water quality, and potential hazards to aviation.”
The plan has drawn opposition from New Yorkers who love the swans and want to see them remain as part of the landscape and from animal advocacy groups including Friends of Animals (FoA), In Defense of Animals (IDA) and GooseWatch NYC, who are calling the DEC’s plan scientifically flawed and unethical. It has also pitted them against other conservation groups who support a mass cull, including Audubon NY, which is now being accused of betraying birds.
The groups are arguing that the swans are being used as scapegoats for environmental problems and the claims that they pose a threat to people are being blown out of proportion.
FoA stated that, “While the diet of mute swans consists of SAV, studies have shown that runoff from fertilizers, pesticides and animal waste contribute significantly to the loss of SAV in other areas, like the Chesapeake Bay. Since mute swans constitute only about one half of one percent of the approximately 400,000 waterfowl in New York counted by the DEC, and the nearly half a million waterfowl also consume aquatic vegetation, killing a relatively small population of mute swans will not contribute significantly to SAV recovery.”
Swans might also act aggressively in nesting areas to protect their young, but that certainly doesn’t justify killing them, especially not when these encounters can be so easily avoided on our part. When it comes to the aviation safety argument, FoA notes that the DEC fails there too. There have also only been four incidents involving airplanes since 1990, which were confirmed by the The Federal Aviation Administration’s Wildlife Strike Database.
IDA and GooseWatch are also arguing that there’s an underlying motive to keep hunters happy by protecting game birds and getting rid of anything that threatens or competes with them, instead of focusing on the problems we’ve caused wildlife through displacement and over hunting.
The government’s continued justification for targeting species in the name of “management,” while wildlife-loving taxpayers are left funding the questionable actions of Wildlife Service’s hired guns, needs to stop.
Please sign and share the petition urging the DEC not to go forward with its plan to eradicate mute swans.
The DEC is also accepting public comments until February 21, which can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, or sent via mail to: NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, Swan Management Plan, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754.
Photo credit: Thinkstock