The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation’s name smacked of sad irony when it announced its non-conservatory plan to kill New York’s more than 2,000 mute swans by gassing them or shooting them. But now a State Assemblymember has pledged to “push the agency to make sure that ‘any and all alternatives are thoroughly explored’ before issuing its final verdict on the swans later this year,” Brooklyn Daily reports. “‘The state’s immediate reaction to a troublesome species shouldn’t be to murder it,’ he said.”
The state says the swans are bad for the environment, especially the habitats of ducks and geese, but advocates say this is exaggerated. According to a petition on Change.org that has amassed more than 23,000 signatures:
The agency gives… justification for eradication by stating that the “mute swan is a non-native, invasive species brought to North America from Eurasia for ornamental purposes in the late 1800s.” According to the NYSDEC, the state’s population of Mute Swans peaked at more than 2,800 birds in 2002 and is currently estimated at about 2,200 swans statewide, at a relatively stable population. By way of comparison, the DEC states that in Long Island alone there are tens of thousands of wintering waterfowl. Of course, millions of human beings live in New York and our impact on the environment dwarfs the harm that wildlife may cause.
Similarly, the federal government planned to kill about 3,000—or 10 percent of the population—white-tailed deer on Long Island because they eat vegetables (locals don’t want to put up fences) and “cause” car accidents and carry ticks that spread Lyme disease. But protest and criticism has influenced the Department of Agriculture to scale down the plan and kill only 1,000 deer, the Post reports.
It’s a victory for local deer and swans—and a lesson to the government that it can’t just kill its problems away.
Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart