Friends of Animals’ Comments On DEC’s New York State Revised Mute Swan Management Plan

Friends of Animals’ Comments On DEC’s New York State Revised Mute Swan Management Plan

1. Contact your Assembly Member and ask them to support the passage of bill A.3675 to protect mute swans from the DEC’s slaughter plan. Find your Assembly Member here. 


Friends of Animals’ official comments to DEC’s New York State Revised Mute Swan Management Plan

Friends of Animals, (FoA) an international animal advocacy organization founded in New York in 1957, with tens of thousands of New York members, strongly opposes the NY Department of Conservation’s (DEC) 2015 revised Draft Management Plan for Mute Swans in New York State. This revised plan contains the same reprehensive, intolerant and unscientific ideas  as the DEC’s previous 2014 swan extermination plan, which received unprecedented backlash from the public, New York residents, state legislators and animal protection organizations, with Friends of Animals leading the opposition. It is incomprehensible that this revised plan is the best DEC has to offer when forced to go back to the drawing board. Gov. Cuomo promised the public that the agency’s revised plan would include parts of a bill he vetoed, which would have protected swans from lethal management methods meant to completely wipe them out. Clearly Gov. Cuomo was fooled by bureaucrats who think the only good swan is a dead one. 

The DEC wants to greatly reduce the numbers of mute swans, from the current 2,200 to fewer than 800, and would immediately remove any free-ranging mute swan populations from upstate NY counties. This is unacceptable and still based on the same bad science and hateful attitudes that the 2014 plan was based upon. The false idea that there are still “too many” mute swans and that they are a destructive environmental force is the basis of this revised plan. The DEC’s apparent hatred of the mute swan species is obvious—and its “Public Education and Outreach Strategies” in the plan are based around spreading this mute swan hatred and misinformation to the public.

DEC  Commissioner Joe Martens bluntly states in the plan that mute swans have “undesirable impacts,” which is a tone-deaf response to the outcry from the public, Friends of Animals and others. DEC staff’s “control” options will include: nest destruction, egg addling, shooting of free-range swans and capture and euthanasia and outrageously, the hunting of mute swans is also being considered as an option. 

All of these options are unnecessary and cruel. Friends of Animals remains fiercely opposed to DEC’s stated desire to list mute swans as an invasive prohibited species. Mute swans are not an invasive species even though DEC insists they are one. 

The DEC states that the “demand for viewing mute swans can largely be met through closely regulated possession of mute swans for enjoyment in urban parks and other public settings.” Friends of Animals strongly disagrees that only human controlled zoo-like settings for mute swans should be tolerated. We find the very idea completely intolerable. New Yorkers value wildlife living freely as it is meant to be. DEC wants to turn a beloved wild species into a quasi-domestic animal under human domination and we won’t stand for it.

The DEC also seeks to go after cities, private individuals and other entities who have captive mute swans. The plan is to oil/addle the eggs and prevent any cygnets from hatching. Permits will be issued to the entities to possess the birds, which will be paid for by taxpayers. Naturally, as the captive swans die off there will be no replacements. And the DEC will continue to oil eggs in the natural environment, so in the end NY DEC will get what it initially wanted, which is zero captive or free-ranging mute swans in NY State. 

We don’t want a single swan to be killed by the DEC or hunters and we don’t want eggs destroyed. This beautiful, treasured species should be allowed to live wild as it has been, at stable numbers, for decades in New York. The aggressive management plan that DEC has offered as a revision is a cleaned up version of their initial swan wipeout plan, but Friends of Animals will continue to oppose DEC’s proposed assaults on mute swans and the destructive ideology it entails.

The continued insistence by DEC that mute swans are destructive to the environment is completely without merit. DEC’s flimsy attempt to blame 2,200 mute swans for causing significant environmental damage throughout all of New York lacks scientific evidence. While the diet of mute swans consists of sub aquatic vegetation, studies have shown that runoff from fertilizers, pesticides and animal waste contribute significantly to the loss of submerged aquatic vegetation (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.

More current studies* show there is absolutely no impact on the biomass of SAV and no impact on nitrogen or phosphorus related to the presence of mutes swans.

** Gayet. G. et al        Effects of Mute Swans on Wetlands: A Synthesis, Hydrobiologia,

                                    723:195-204 (2014)  

                                    DOI: 01.1007/s10750-013-1704-5 (Oct. 2013)

 

In 2014, swan specialists and habitat researchers stated that the number of swans in Sweden, numbering 10,000 in an area smaller than that targeted in NY, have never caused any environmental damage, are regarded as a sentinel species in that they alert us to problems in the habitat such as harmful microorganisms and the presence of high levels of heavy metals such as lead and copper. How can the NY DEC deny this current scientific research by swan and wetland habitat specialists and instead repeat mistruths posing as science by claiming that a small, stable population of mute swans in New York state cause environmental damage that simply does not exist in areas with much higher populations of mute swans than in New York?

Continuing to demonize mute swans by classifying them as “aggressive” toward humans is without merit. Mute swans, like many other species, protect their nests and babies and they are no more aggressive or detrimental than any other waterfowl species with their young or nests. Educating the public to avoid confronting or feeding swans or invading their nesting areas with boats and fish-catching equipment would solve any perceived issues.   

We want protection for mute swans in New York, not eradication or aggressive control tactics which would relegate this beloved species from one that the public can enjoy observing living freely to one that is captive under human ownership, and that ultimately will be managed to extinction.

 

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