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Why is the Government Coming After Our Swans?

Swans, Georgica Pond, East Hampton, 2013
Swans, Georgica Pond, East Hampton, 2013
First, they wanted to kill Bambi; now the government has the Ugly Duckling, all-grown-up, in its crosshairs.

Last year, when the Long Island Farm Bureau and the Wildlife Services division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture floated a program to "cull" the deer population of East Hampton Town and Village--it involved sharpshooters--it caused quite a kerfuffle. In response the Town and Village put a bullet in the plan and left the deer to their own devices.

This time, it's the Department of Environmental Conservation, and the target is our population of mute swans. The DEC would like to see the species eradicated by 2025. It asserts that the 2,200 extant creatures have become an invasive and aggressive species, threatening people and black terns due to increased competition for diminishing wetlands due to encroachment by development. (The government has no current plans to go after developers.)

So far, there have been no fiery debates or petitions, but one local man is speaking out.

Larry Penny, The East Hampton Star's naturalist columnist for many years and former director of natural resources and environmental preservation in East Hampton was outspoken in his condemnation in his column of Feb. 12 of the Department of Environmental Conservation's plan to eradicate mute white swans. Penny points out that the swans in Town Pond have become an enduring symbol of the area, and he extols the swans' virtues as spouses and parents, comparing their versions of the nuclear family to the iconic ones presided over by Blondie and Dagwood and Ozzie and Harriet Nelson.

Penny is in full agreement with Hugh Raffles, an anthropology professor at The New School who recently wrote a defense of the mute birds in a New York Times op-ed "Speaking Up for the Mute Swan" According to Raffles, the species also known as the Cygnus olor came to North America from Europe sometime after the Civil War and their natural enemies are foxes and raccoons.

Thankfully, The Huffington Post  reveals a happier ending may be in store for the beleaguered swans. Sag Harbor's own New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and State Senator Kenneth LaValle of Port Jefferson have sponsored a moratorium that forestalls eradication of the birds until the DEC can prove the swans cause "actual damage to the environment or other species."

What do you think about the plan to eliminate the swans? Let us know in the comments.








Sue K. March 27, 2014 at 09:20 AM
This article not only reports incorrectly that there hasn't been an outcry against this but it ignores the announcement some weeks ago by the DEC that they are reconsidering. Do not trust Patch for actual news.
Sue Miller March 27, 2014 at 10:07 AM
The author of the swan plan should be asked to step down for writing such an uneducated proposal. This man did not do his homework.Very uninformed person ... very heartless to say the least. Who in their right mind would propose to wipe out an entire species? Talk about upsetting the balance. What I have learned about the Mute swans is that they offer very valuable information to our scientists about our environment and water quality.They "alert" the scientists to very very serious bacterias in the waters that are very dangerous to man. The Mute swan is also the "reason" why the scientists today have developed 2 very important vaccines. Other countries around the world realize the value of the Mute swans. They ask their scientists to go to work right away & check the water quality when the Mute swan population starts to go DOWN. They realize that the only water fowl that shows the water is troubled is the Mute swan. They get whats called Pink Wing caused by this serious bacteria...............We should be treating the Mute swan like GOLD! Their eggs just may be the GOLDEN EGGS for man. They are a huge benefit to man. Let us not forget that in 1970's the United States Government asked scientists world wide to name a species that would be the symbol of world peace.. THE MUTE SWAN WAS CHOSEN BY THE WORLD SCIENTISTS. The United States would look like fools if we start slaughtering our symbol of world peace. I read in a New York paper that he actually suggested sending the dead bodies of the swans to homeless shelters to help feed the poor. I was told by top scientist Sheila Bolin from The Regal Swan Foundation that the dead bodies have poisonous leads & 1 other weird thing that could be very harmful if eaten by humans. There is a reason why people do not eat swans anymore. Why did the person who wrote the proposal not know this? I do not think New York State wants to pay for law suits because people are eating swan meat with lead. So why should tax payers pay the person who wrote this horrible proposal?? To me he did not do his homework. It was very careless & reckless thinking. Thank you to everyone who stepped forward to block this proposal. I pray they shut the entire proposal down for good & start treating the Mute swan like gold.
Concerned March 27, 2014 at 11:09 AM
The DEP and State Agencies have been targeting the Mute Swans through contraceptive methods for several years. I am surprised the author is unaware of this policy. Simply the DEP and other state environmental agencies have sought out nesting Swans and shake almost all their eggs to kill the egg so they do not hatch. They place the shaken egg back into the nest so the swans do not lay more eggs. Well it looks like the contraception policy did is not keeping the swan population in check. Certainly swan are not a food source. Nor are swans a hazard to planes. I have no idea why they are targeted but it is not a new policy.
Hartley Brown March 27, 2014 at 02:07 PM
So now Patch is doing an article about an article in another publication. Note: it's about three weeks old and the proposed cull has been canceled. Please don't call Patch lackies "authors."
Karen H. March 27, 2014 at 10:21 PM
I am so tired of hearing the eradication of our beautiful Deer and Swans! When will they eradicate the true enemy....the developers? The speeding cars, pollution, over crowding???Leave our precious animals alone....

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