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Revised DEC mute swan plan should be stopped, LI lawmaker says

A mother swan and her eight cygnets are

A mother swan and her eight cygnets are seen swimming on May 14, 2012 in the pond at the Charles T. Church Preserve, also known as Shu Swamp Preserve, in Mill Neck. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

The state should halt a plan to sharply reduce New York's mute swan population because its revised strategy still isn't supported by scientific data, a Long Island lawmaker said Saturday.

Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) criticized the state Department of Environmental Conservation for failing to address key concerns raised by legislators and critics of the plan.

Englebright, who chairs the Assembly's Environmental Conservation Committee, said implementing the DEC strategy could result in birds that are "maimed to be flightless and sitting on nest eggs that never hatch."

In a letter sent Friday to the DEC signed by Englebright and Assemb. Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Sheepshead Bay), the lawmakers contend the agency relied on "video clips on the Internet" and outdated and flawed studies.

Englebright said in an interview that he was prompted by concerns raised by his constituents, who enjoy viewing the swans at local ponds and in Setauket Harbor.

"They're really quite spectacular there in the harbor," he said. "No one can deny they're beautiful."

Long Island is home to about 1,600 of the state's 2,200 mute swans, which were imported from Europe in the 1800s. The DEC considers the swans an invasive species that drives out native birds and fouls waters.

The initial plan called for eliminating all of the swans by 2025, sparking outrage from animal welfare groups. The State Legislature approved a two-year moratorium that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo later vetoed.

The new strategy aims to reduce the overall number on Long Island to 800.

The new plan focuses more on nonlethal methods, including transferring the birds or sterilizing them, instead of euthanizing them. Municipalities and communities would be licensed to control flocks in parks, but as "few as possible" would be allowed in tidal waters.

To prevent eggs from hatching, the DEC proposes addling, or shaking, them. To keep existing birds from flying to other nesting grounds, their wings could be clipped, or the pinion joint at the wing's outer edge could be surgically removed, according to the plan.

Thomas Mailey, a DEC spokesman, said Saturday that the agency revised its initial plan to reflect public comments.

The comment period for the new plan ended Friday, and Mailey said the DEC is "carefully reviewing" the feedback.

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