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NY rolls out new plan to save, control mute swans

A mute swan swims in Main Pond at

A mute swan swims in Main Pond at Connetquot River State Park Preserve, Dec. 5, 2008. Credit: Newsday / Jim Peppler

ALBANY — The beautiful but aggressive mute swan has gotten a reprieve and will continue to live on Long Island under a new program.

Typically, the state Department of Environmental Conservation tries to block and remove an invasive species, such as the mute swan, to protect native species. But under a new proposal, subject to public comment, the agency aims to control a population of about 2,200 mute swans statewide by taking a regional approach, rather than eliminating them.

About 1,600 of the swans thrive on Long Island. The birds have become wild after they were imported from Europe to beautify estates in the Hudson Valley and on Long Island.

“Wildlife management can present challenges in trying to balance conflicting interests, such as when a beautiful bird can have harmful impacts,” said Commissioner Basil Seggos. “The plan should limit the potential future impacts of mute swans on native wildlife as well as human enjoyment of the state’s aquatic resources.”

Mute swans have damaged the native environment while often being aggressive toward people, officials have said, becoming so territorial they have driven people from using some pond and lake areas.

But mute swans that flourish on Long Island and in the Rochester area in the northern part of the state have benefited from strong lobbying by people who find the white swans to be an aesthetic benefit to waterways.

Environmental groups and wildlife rehabilitation specialists have long questioned whether the swans, brought to the United States since the late 1800s, seriously threaten ecosystems and if they need to be eradicated.

The plan includes “nonlethal population controls” of the rapidly multiplying species, including destroying nests and coating eggs with an oil that keeps them from hatching.

The new proposal will be the subject of three public hearings. The first will be at 6 p.m. Sept. 19, at the Suffolk County Water Authority, 260 Motor Pkwy., Hauppauge. Others are Oct. 3 in upstate Hilton at the Braddock Bay Pavilion on 199 E. Manitou Rd.; and Oct. 19 in New Paltz at the DEC regional office, 21 S. Putt Corners Rd.

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