Southern Brooklyn

Sheepshead Swans Get Stay Of Execution As Agency Explores Alternative Methods Of Population Control

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Photo by Brian Hoo

In a rare victory for Southern Brooklyn wildlife, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced on Friday that it will revise its plan to eradicate the state’s 2,200 mute swans and consider non-lethal methods to keep numbers down.

The reversal came on the heels of community outrage at their initial plan, which called for rounding up and euthanizing thousands of the birds across the state in an attempt to eliminate the population entirely.

According to the agency, the DEC received more than 1,500 comments from individuals and organizations, as well as more than 16,000 form letters and 30,000 signatures on various petitions. Several lawmakers also spoke out against  the proposal.

“We appreciate the strong response that the draft plan received, and it’s clear that New Yorkers recognize the importance of a comprehensive mute swan management plan that balances the interests of a diversity of stakeholders,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in a press release. “The revised plan will seek to balance the conflicting views about management of mute swans in New York.”

The agency will release new plans and reopen the commenting period, which originally closed on February 21. In what may be a nod to areas like Sheepshead Bay, where the mute swan is considered an iconic part of the waterfront environment, the agency conceded that deploying one plan statewide did not respect the differing statuses the birds have in their respective communities.

In the DEC press release, the agency pushed a new approach:

In revising the plan, DEC likely will acknowledge regional differences in status, potential impacts and desired population goals by setting varying goals for different regions of the state.

The new plan is expected to be released in the spring, and a 30-day comment period will follow.

“This is hopeful news and a sign that things are moving in the right direction,” said Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz, who sought to protect the swans  by introducing legislation that would put a two-year moratorium on the DEC’s original proposal. “Sheepshead Bay wouldn’t be the same without the mute swans. They’re synonymous with grace and beauty. Yes, they may hiss sometimes, but this is New York, so they’re entitled.”

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