Mute swans just got a stay of execution from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, as he signed a law on Monday preventing wildlife officials from euthanizing the majestic birds for a period of two years. The new legislation adds accountability checks and public hearings to the state Department of Environmental Conservation when it comes to population control measures for local wildlife.
The reason the graceful birds are in danger in the first place is that mute swans are considered an invasive species by state wildlife officials, having been introduced in America from their origins in Europe and Asia. DEC also deems the birds to be a threat to native wildlife as well as the human population, as all species of swans are known to be aggressive toward people (especially when they feel threatened). The department performs a survey every three years to tally the population of mute swans and, if the numbers are considered too high, officials capture and euthanize controlled numbers of the birds in order to keep population numbers under wraps. The public backlash to the recent culling plans was, in part, responsible for setting off the chain of events that resulted in the new law.
Wildlife officials had planned to trap and euthanize large groups of mute swans from across the state, including some who live in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Senator Tony Avella, of Queens, sponsored this bill and has been pushing to protect the swans since 2014. Until now, Cuomo has blocked the effort, citing other ways to change the state Department of Environmental Conservation procedures. Now, his spokesperson says the law effectively outlines practices the DEC already follows.
The new legislation makes it more difficult for the DEC to euthanize the wild swans. The DEC is now required to hold two public hearings and provide scientific evidence that links the swans with environmental damage prior to any culling efforts. The requirement will remain in place for the next two years.
“This is a major victory for the mute swans, as well as other animals who may face similar eradication in the future,” said Avella, who hopes the DEC will find non-lethal means for controlling mute swan populations.
Via NY Daily News