Wildlife Watch’s Shortened Comments on the Draft Management Plan for Mute Swans in NYS

By Anne Muller

In this draft plan, the Bureau of Wildlife (BOW) of the DEC proposes eliminating all mute swans by 2025.  BOW asserts that the mute swan is not native, is aggressive, destroys submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), displaces native wildlife species, degrades water quality, and is hazardous to aviation.

The plan proposes entirely wiping out all free-ranging mute swans, in spite of the observation that the mute swan population in NYS has been stable over the past decade, and over a period of 110 years has grown to a total state population of merely 2,200 individuals.
In the section titled: MANAGEMENT GOALS AND STRATEGIES, Point 1, it is clear that one ultimate goal of the plan is the replacement of mutes with trumpeter and tundra swans.  BOW writes: As trumpeter swans…and tundra swans (both of which are native to North America) become more common in New York, they may satisfy some of the public desire to see free-ranging swans in NY, so outreach efforts will direct some interests to those native species.  The statement would give the impression that the population of trumpeter swans is naturally occurring.  However, building a free-ranging, breeding population of trumpeter swans is an orchestrated introduction of this species that was never native to New York State.

One need only look at the website of the special interest group, the Trumpeter Swan Society, headquartered in MN, to learn its goals and affiliation with wildlife management agencies, and its persistent, aggressive, and, no doubt, well-funded demand to introduce this swan species throughout the United States, although it is well-documented that their breeding range never included eastern states.

Wildlife Watch opposes this plan which seeks to destroy the naturalized mute swans, and further opposes the implementation of an introduction of non-NYS native swans, which is currently in progress. Aside from not being native New Yorkers, there is no evidence that trumpeter swans will be at all different in the very aspects that are being used to condemn the mute swans. In fact, the larger size of trumpeters ensures that they will require more food, and will defecate even more than their naturalized cousins.

BOW’s draft management plan incorporates so many “mays” and “coulds,” that it skates along the edge of truth while propagandizing.  For example, it asserts that “Too much fecal matter [they assume ALL fecal matter is caused by mute swans, and not humans or other wildlife] MAY contribute to fecal coliform, which MAY be a concern to public health, and COULD affect shell fishing on Long Island.”  Such uncertainty expressed here indicates that mute swan fecal matter IS NOT a REAL concern.  We ask (rhetorically) if the poop from leaching septics, kids who swim in the water, dogs who play in the water, and huntable waterfowl who live in the water, is a politically sanitized poop that renders it of no concern?

The Draft Plan, in keeping with BOW’s wildlife management for hunting goals, naturally proposes allowing the hunting of mute swans, along with removing them for private enterprises. That, while trumpeters are being bred and introduced at two primary sites in NYS. One site is the private 5,000 acre canned hunt facility called Savannah Dhu, which is owned by Robert Congel, a mall developer and large political contributor.  Among the people he has entertained at Savannah Dhu is Governor Andrew Cuomo going back to his days as a NYC housing official.  In addition to Savannah Dhu, there are other canned hunt facilities in NYS where swans may be hunted.  Please visit this link if there is any doubt that swans are hunted privately in NYS, and note that all are licensed by BOW:

Majestic swans reduced to this sad state by BOW. Photo is from BOW’s website: http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7076.html

Waterfowl managers do not want huntable populations of waterfowl, including Canada geese, reduced by mute swans, although trumpeter swans will have the same impact as the mutes do now once they are introduced as free-ranging breeding populations.

On federal waterfowl management areas in NYS, and NYS wildlife management areas, population controls are minimized so as to yield the largest waterfowl populations.  On those lands, habitat and water manipulation favor maximum populations.  Further, within the management areas, wild animals are trapped, and even dogs and cats may be shot on sight for the threat they pose to waterfowl populations.

Replacing mutes with trumpeters has been discussed at flyway meetings at the behest of the Trumpeter Swan Society and hunters for at least 20 years. I personally recall a committee meeting at which waterfowl management agents discussed trying to find evidence that trumpeters were ever in the Atlantic Flyway so that they could legally proceed with a more palatable “REintroduction.”  When one waterfowl manager said he had found a citation that indicated there was a trumpeter spotted in the 1800s, they all seemed to breathe a sigh of relief!

Allowing the population to gradually be reduced by natural population controls, ending habitat manipulation on wildlife management areas, ending cooperative agreements with large landowners to allow their lands to be used for propagation, stopping the trapping of natural predators, allowing the swan population to keep the Canada goose population in check during breeding seasons, are all alternatives that should be used – and would be used if BOW were not managing wildlife strictly for the benefit of the small minority of the population that hunts.

While the DEC is a proponent of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), a process for extracting gas that is notorious for destroying drinking water – and for which there is plenty of data documenting the deadly consequences for every species that lives in a fracked area — it seems extremely hypocritical of the DEC to be so concerned over the few mute swans who eat SAV, thus proposing an extremist plan to kill them all.

Oblivious to its own discordance, illogic, and misplaced concerns, BOW arrogantly lists the ways they should spend our tax dollars to convince us that 100% removal of mute swans is necessary, and they insist it must be done fast in order to protect the environment:  BOW suggests printing brochures to overcome what they call the lack of understanding by the public about why it’s important to kill or remove the mute swans.  They also suggest assigning staff to cooperate with “conservation [hunting] groups” in local areas and encourage municipalities to allow public and private areas to be used to kill and capture mute swans.

In Point 5 of the Plan, which on its surface seems benign, they suggest “Allow[ing] free-ranging mute swans to be taken and possessed by licensed persons.”  However, Wildlife Watch would object to this if the capture and possession were not in the best interest of the swans.  If the possessor is a wildlife rehabilitator, a park such as Popcorn Park in NJ, a place of sanctuary for the welfare of the swans, then we can accept Point 5 if the condition of the swan warrants it.  If, however, the purpose is to use the swans for canned hunt operations, for breeding, for sale to further exploit them, or for any purpose that does not benefit the individual swans, then Wildlife Watch opposes it.  Point 5 needs to be very carefully detailed, and necessitates far more transparency of purpose and scope than the Plan presently provides.

Finally, to whitewash the killing of mutes, BOW’s Plan proposes donating the flesh of mute swans to zoos and the “needy.”  This is risky business at best as the USDA does not inspect wild animal flesh.  As there is no control of the living conditions of the animal, the contaminants the animal has been subjected to in the environment, the food the animal has eaten prior to being killed, or the water they have drunk, they can offer no guarantees as to the quality of the meat.  Basically, a hunter inspection involves a quick look.

In 1996, the NYS Department of Health, Social Services and Ag & Markets were asked to approve deer flesh from a cull for distribution to the “poor and needy.”  They said, We cannot, and should not engage in selective enforcement of the law or establish separate standards of food safety.  The poor and homeless are entitled to receive the same level of health protections from government as those more fortunate…We do not take issue with hunters who choose to consume game meat which they have killed since they do so at their own risk.  However, the general public should not be exposed unwittingly to the potential food safety risks of consuming wild game which are ‘processed’in this fashion.

BOW’s imprudent suggestion stands in stark contrast to a recent recall of 9 million pounds of meat because, according to the USDA, it was processed “without the full benefit of federal inspection.”
We call upon Mayor Bill De Blasio to keep our NYC owned property in the state safe for wild animals and for the public.  We urge him to keep our mute swans safe from BOW’s plans to rid the state of them.


In the light of its plans to pass regulations to eliminate the free-ranging mute swan population, we ask that our NYS Legislature take active control over BOW that operates within the DEC.  Regulatory free rein has truly been a reign of terror against wildlife.  The only way the majority of people, the real public, not merely hunters, can ever have hope of taking back its wildlife from the deadly grasp of BOW (a bureau tied to the firearms industry and in the business of killing wild animals) is to put BOW under legislative control.

Mute swans are, in truth, among the most magnificent animals to grace our sad world.
Since the plan was announced, it has come under so much attack from the public that BOW sent the agents back to the drawing board. We applaud NYS Senator Tony Avella who has introduced S6589,  which imposes a two-year moratorium on the killing of mute swans by declassifying them as a “prohibited invasive species.”
Please see:
View the Regal Swan Society video


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Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting / C.A.S.H.
P.O. Box 562
New Paltz, NY 12561