By Juan Soto
Mute swans can’t catch a break.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill that would place a two-year moratorium on a statewide plan to eliminate about 2,200 of these type of birds. Many of the swans travel to waterways in Jamaica Bay, Little Neck Bay and Howard Beach.
The bill to save the wild population of invasive mute swans was a response to a state Department of Environmental Conservation project to eradicate these birds by the year 2025.
“It’s a shame that Gov. Cuomo has vetoed a bill that would have gone a long way towards protecting New York State’s mute swan population,” said state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who sponsored the bill.
Avella, who is a member of the Environmental Conservation Committee in the state Senate, said he was “disappointed” the governor did not sign the bill into law.
He pointed out the legislation had “overwhelming support from both the people and the Legislature.”
The bill passed both the Assembly and the state Senate.
The DEC said the mute swan is an invasive species, and in 2013 the agency announced the plan to rid the state of the entire population of the wild birds. The agency said that mute swans first arrived in New York in the late 1800s, but were kept in captivity.
The DEC claimed the wild swan population causes various problems, including “aggressive behavior toward people, destruction of submerged aquatic vegetation, displacement of native wildlife species, degradation of water quality and potential hazards to aviation.”
But Avella countered that argument by saying “scientific data does not back the decision to exterminate the mute swan, and public opinion stated time and again that the mute swan must be saved.”
A five-week public comment period on the bill led to more than 16,000 letters of support for the birds and 30,000 signatures on a petition to stop the plan to eradicate the species.
Cuomo said the DEC plan will be revised and will include parts of the bill that he shut down.
Last summer, Avella said, DEC agents shot and killed two swans in upstate New York in front of people visiting the Black River Bay near the Canadian border.
In a statement released at the time by Avella’s office, Edita Birnkrant, campaign director for the animal advocacy group Friends of Animals, pointed out, “To say that this was a horrific and inhumane incident is an understatement. The fact that these killings were carried out after DEC agreed to revise their eradication plan and present it for another public hearing is even more shameful and most definitely warrants an immediate investigation.”
DEC said it would use nonlethal methods to handle the mute swan population elimination plan.
Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4564.