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Long Island

State lawmakers approve bill halting DEC plan to eradicate mute swans

New York State is proposing to kill or

New York State is proposing to kill or capture all wild mute swans by 2025 because, officials say, the aggressive Eurasian species is outcompeting native birds. (May 2, 1999) Photo Credit: Newsday

Long Island's mute swans would get a two-year reprieve under a bill approved by the state Senate that bars New York from proceeding with plans to kill or capture all the birds by 2025.

The measure also obliges the Department of Environmental Conservation to prove mute swans damage the environment and drive out other species, Sen. Tony Avella (D-Queens), who sponsored the bill, said in a statement Thursday.

"We will now have the time to properly examine and hopefully change this plan with legal protections that prevent harm to the swans and allow New York residents to live in harmony with these treasured birds," Avella said.

The Senate unanimously passed the measure Wednesday.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo hasn't said whether he will sign the bill, which passed the Assembly last month.

Experts estimate that half of the state's 2,200 mute swans live on Long Island, with others clustered in the lower Hudson Valley and around Lake Ontario. Prized for their majestic appearance, the large, ornamental birds were brought to New York in the late 1800s.

Thousands of people last winter sent letters and signed petitions criticizing the DEC's 2013 proposal. They said the agency's plan to empower state employees to shoot or euthanize adult mute swans on public land or catch them for zoos was cruel and based on too little hard data.

In late February, the agency vowed to make revisions, likely by recognizing "regional differences." The DEC also promised to consider "nonlethal means" of achieving its goals.

Gary Rogers, a Nassau SPCA spokesman, believes Cuomo will sign the bill.

"I don't think he wants to be known as the governor who killed all the swans," Rogers said.

Byron Young, biologist and president of the Eastern Long Island Audubon Society, said state regulations already outline ways to curtail wild bird populations, including egg addling.

"Why don't we do more of that rather than saying 'We're just going to go out and exterminate them?' " Young asked.

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