If the Department of Environmental Conservation has its way, there won't be a single mute swan left in the State of New York by 2025.
If state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has his way, the birds just might be able to stay here unmolested.
Avella this week introduced a bill that would put a two-year halt on the DEC's plan to capture or kill all mute swans in the state. The distinctive white waterfowl are not native to New York, and, according to the agency, they are disruptive to the ecology here and have to go.
Details of the DEC’s draft plan to empty the state of mute swans, and directions on how members of the public may comment on it, are available at dec.ny.gov/animals/7076.html. The deadline for comments is Feb. 21.
Avella's bill would not only delay the eradication plan but force the DEC to demonstrate how the swans have damaged either the environment or the well-being of other species.
An avowed proponent of animal rights — who also has been pressing the city for years to ban horse-drawn carriage rides in Central Park — Avella noted that many people were shocked to learn the DEC wants to eradicate the swans.
“I was horrified to learn that our state wildlife agency would make such an extreme, unfounded proposal, and do not believe that the DEC has provided evidence to justify the elimination of these beautiful swans,” Avella said in a prepared statement. “The public outcry has been severe—many New Yorkers do not want to see mute swans eliminated and animal advocacy organizations, wildlife experts, rehabilitators and others have also joined the chorus of opposition."
The DEC says mute swans are aggressive, damaging to aquatic vegetation and potentially hazardous to airplanes, but Avella and organizations such as Friends of Animals aren't buying it.
“We are thankful that Senator Avella responded to our urgent request to file this legislation, which we hope will help save the mute swan species in New York from the DEC’s vile extinction plan,” the group's New York director, Edita Birnkrant, said in a statement issued by Avella's office. “Our NY office has been swamped with phone calls and emails from frantic New York residents horrified that mute swans may be wiped out completely. Friends of Animals is requesting that Governor Andrew Cuomo issue a New York state proclamation to recognize March 10-16, 2014, as Swan Appreciation Week. DEC’s hateful attitudes towards mute swans must be reversed—they are out of step with the very residents of New York whose tax dollars fund the agency.”
Avella did not say if there is a companion bill in the Assembly, and his office did not immediately answer a question on that.