Southern Brooklyn

And Now They Want To Murder Sheepshead Bay’s Swans…

Photo by Brian Hoo

The water gently lulls as the seagulls echo each other and the swans create the soft ripples that circle outwards towards idyllic sidewalks filled with baby strollers and joggers wearing winter gloves.

The picturesque Sheepshead Bay waterfront might lend itself to such poetry now, but if the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation gets its way, we might have to omit those iconic swans.

The DEC issued a report in December 2013 called the “Management Plan for Mute Swans in New York State,” in which the particular species of swan – mute swan, hailing from Europe – are considered “invasive species.” Although they have been in North America since the late-1800s, and failed to garner much complaint from pretty much anybody, the agency has instituted a timeline for their removal.

In the more than a century that they’ve been here, the mute swan population has flourished in Sheepshead Bay, and even become a much commented upon icon of its waterfront. Statewide, there are about 2,200 mute swans, according to the report.

The DEC claims that the mute swans have caused problems “including aggressive behavior towards people, destruction of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), displacement of native wildlife species, degradation of water quality, and potential hazards to aviation.”

But some New Yorkers, like these involved with a petition feel this is “wrong—it is cruel, and not how New Yorkers want our taxpayer dollars spent.”

The petition notes that the DEC’s “outline for management seeks complete and total decimation of the species by the year 2025.”

This announcement follows the euthanized geese at Jamaica Bay and the decision, since reversed, to shoot Snowy owls out of the sky around New York airports.

You can sign the petition here.

— Vanessa Ogle

Comment policy


  1. Can we keep the swans and get rid of the annoying pooping squaking seagulls instead?

    Or better yet, leave all of these animals alone and get rid of the animals who fill the bay in the summer for boat parties. I’d argue that they are the cause of far more problems than the swans “including aggressive behavior towards people, destruction of submerged
    aquatic vegetation (SAV), displacement of native wildlife species,
    degradation of water quality”. Haven’t been able to link them to “potential hazards to aviation” just yet, but to be fair I’m having a hard time linking the swans to this “potential” too.

  2. Seagull fan here! Love the sound of their call. All living things pass their waste somewhere, swans included.

  3. The problem is not the swans, but the humans who constantly overfeed them. It interrupts the migratory patterns of birds & causes overpopulation. The Humans should not be allowed to feed the wild fowl, they are meant to find their own food, & if not available, it is in their nature to find a different location. Some humans go so far as to deliberately cause feeding frenzies, thinking it amusing. It isn’t. It is interfering with nature. I will sign the petition against harming the birds & I urge the legal system to discourage humans with stiff fines.

  4. There is no migratory pattern anymore. Nature is confused. At this point in time this flock or flocks of swan are Sheepshead Bays and you better well protect them or the wrath will befall.

  5. Not a big fan of pigeons. Just had one splatter on my jacket last week. Also not a fan of squirrels since they rip up my plants. We must all, as individuals, choose to control or perpetuate these situations as the law allows, or as we can be discrete. The common house sparrow is not native, and has pushed out native birds, so why one species gets sympathy, while another gets poisoned or trapped, seems almost random.

  6. How about a link to this so-called “Management Plan” and the other DEC-sponsored final solutons that render our local wildlife endangered species? I’m sure there’s a lot of junk science here, and perhaps some political considerations benefitting the private contractors whose hit squads do the actual roundups and exterminations.

    And BTW, our feathered friends have owned the air rights over our lands and waterways since the dawn of time, well before the Wright Brothers, the FAA, the DEC, and even the late nineteenth century “invasion” of the mute swans, so, if we’re going to have public policy clearing our skies and bays of resident species, whether native or migratory, for a supposedly greater public benefit, let it be with “just compensation” in the form of relocation, and not by cold-blooded mass extermination, I wish I could say that the DEC’s plan is for the birds, but it definitely is not, so I’ll just call it a load of bird crap. This is so sad. 🙁

  7. First they came for the Canada geese, then they came for the snowy owls and now they are coming for the mute swans. What kind of wildlife management do we have in the NYS DEC and the USDA? Sounds like a bunch of trigger happy Elmer Fudds with no real sense of wildlife management or conservation.

  8. The problems with pigeons is people, you and me, US. If well meaning dolts would stop feeding them, then they would have to spend more time searching for food and have less time to breed, ie. procreate. They would not starve. By giving them bread, the birds are diverted from their natural cycle of food gathering and reproduction to simply reproduce every chance they get. Will you take the Pledge not to feed the birds.?

  9. Keep the swans. Get rid of the government. That’ll solve this problem. And a host of others….

    You’re getting a taste of big government, people. It’s what you want. enjoy.

  10. Ironic that an agency which has the word “Conservation” as part of its name, is looking to off these lovely swans. I’d say this agency is a much bigger threat to my well-being than these lovely swans. Let’s look into the very necessity of this agency, there’s probably five others that do the same thing (which is probably nothing)

  11. Yes, human civilization in its modern form has had major disruptions on the balance of Nature. The overpopulation of deer due to loss of predators and altered plant types has produced their starvation, Lyme disease spread, etc. This is all further complicated by too many humaniacs who refuse to understand biology, brain washed by Hollywood and corporate fund raisers selling drama instead of reality. We all make our own call. Hopefully, we choose to be informed in our passions.

  12. I think this link, provided by one of the petition signers, explains it all:

    I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but apparently people who buy water-front property aren’t too happy with people feeding these birds. I’m sure this is true in other areas of the state as well. What better way to solve the problem than to get the state to eliminate them as an intrusive species? For areas like Brooklyn especially, this kind of “nativism” is inappropriate and the motivation for it highly suspect.

    By Andrew Kent

    Having recently retired after more than forty years as an accountant, Herman had undertaken a leisurely road trip through the southwest in search of an idyllic place to spend his golden years when he came upon a small resort
    town in the Colorado Rockies, known for its spectacular views and for the numerous eagles nesting on the nearby peaks and ledges.

    As luck would have it, there was a bird watchers’ convention in town that week, and all the hotel and motel rooms were booked, all except for one in a small
    boarding house on the edge of town. Desperate for a place to rest his weary bones, and hoping to explore the area as a possible retirement venue, he reluctantly accepted the modest accommodations.

    No sooner was Herman unpacked when a huge eagle crashed through his window, crapped all over him, his bed, and his belongings, and then, just as suddenly, keeled over and died. Dripping with eagle guano, he went outside only to see another of the giant birds swoop down out of the sky, drenching him and his new Toyota in yet more excrement, and then, like the first bird, fall to the ground dead. This happened a few more times, and, before long, the entire area was awash with eagle dung and littered with dead birds.

    Having no place else to go, Herman angrily complained to the boarding house owner that, if the avian bombardment didn’t stop, he was going to sue the boarding house and the town for damages. The owner called the Mayor, who,
    being a loyal and well-connected Republican, called his contacts in Washington, who, fearing the possibility of an impending bird flu pandemic, notified the White House. President Bush immediately dispatched a crack airborne sniper unit just home from Iraq, and, by the end of the day, the troops had tracked down all the remaining birds and shot them dead.

    Needless to say, the bird watchers were furious and called their congress people and the media, demanding an inquiry into what they deemed the President’s overreaction to an isolated incident involving a few, possibly sick
    or, more likely, poisoned, birds. Congress held an emergency hearing, calling the CDC and other federal officials on the carpet, but no one could explain what had happened or why. The talk shows were abuzz, conspiracy theories abounded, and animal rights activists and others screamed “cover up!” There were even suggestions that the Bush administration had created the crisis to deflect the public’s attention from the war and other controversial or unpopular policy decisions. But the press wouldn’t let go, and, at the regularly scheduled White House press conference, reporters put the President’s feet to the fire, demanding an explanation.

    How, asked veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas, could the President, acting on the flimsiest of information and the sole complaint of an enraged boarding house guest, order such a draconian response?

    “I thought you’d never ask,” the President drawled with his customary smirk. “It was the best way to stop the ill eagles from crossing the boarder.”

    # # # # # # # # # #

    Copyright 2007, Andrew Kent

  14. Since Mute Swans are a European swan, why can’t the DEC, trap, neuter and return the swans, instead of killing them?
    If they all get fixed, they’d live out their lives in the Bay but eventually, there would be no more Mute swans and then other ducks could re-establish themselves.
    OR, crazy idea – maybe the DEC could *gasp* RELOCATE the swans to an area better suited for them?? Why does killing have to be the only solution?


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