Southern Brooklyn

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

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.”

Comment policy


  1. i wouldn’t call a sterilization of all females a good alternative method… The Genophage in Mass Effect is now a reality for the Mute Swans

  2. Thank you Ned for bringing this issue to the attention of Sheepshead Bay and the entire city as evidenced by the articles in NY Daily News, NY Post and NY Times.
    Let’s keep up the pressure to ensure the safety and long-term survival of the Mute Swans of Sheepshead Bay

  3. Why wouldn’t they exterminate the mute swans? They are an invasive species not native to North America and they directly compete with native waterfowl. This is about as stupid as managing for a sustainable python population in Florida. Animal lovers need to shut the hell up about wildlife issues they dont understand and realize that Invasive species deserve nothing less than complete eradication. A native ecosystem is a healthy ecosystem.

  4. Hysterical, but No, not really a “genophage”…they live lots of other places, but they aren’t native to the NY area.

  5. White Europeans are an invasive species not native to North America.
    The real problem, as I keep exhaustively saying, is the interference by humans in feeding wild animals. Especially Overfeeding. The pythons in Florida are of no comparison to the swans. Besides, the swans have been here for over 150 years, it’s not like they just arrived.

  6. I want to join you, Fannie, in thanking Ned. This is an important issue to our neighborhood & Ned did a great job keeping this issue upfront & spreading the word. Good job Ned!

  7. The reports the DEC are using in their efforts to exterminate the swans are not exactly conclusive. Other experts and animal protection organizations differ in their views regarding the Mute Swan population and whether the swans are destructive to their habitat. The areas and neighborhoods that host the Mute Swans should have a say in what happens to them. As the appeals of individuals who contacted the DEC on the plight of the swans showed that many residents of NYS did not want to allow Albany bureaucrats make decisions that directly affect the Mute Swans in NYS and the communities who host them without adding a differing of opinion regarding a fair and humane outcome. Let’s try to keep Albany and the DEC accountable! Thanks to the public outcry with the help of Sheepshead Bites and Ned Berke, the citizens of NYS and Sheepshead Bay have made their thoughts and desires known, and maybe, hopefully, pushed aside the original plan for the elimination of the Mute Swans and opened up the DEC decision-making process to something the people of NYS and Sheepshead Bay and the ” Mute Swans” can live with!


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