By HUGH RAFFLESFEB. 17, 2014
THE Department of Environmental Conservation is proposing to kill New York State’s entire population of free-ranging mute swans, those graceful white water birds long treasured as symbols of romance and fidelity. New Yorkers have until Feb. 21 to submit responses to a plan that calls for the removal by 2025 of the estimated 2,200 birds by methods that could include shooting, gassing, decapitation and egg addling.
Mute swans — so called because they’re not generally vocal, their most arresting sound being the beating of their wings — arrived in New York from Europe in the late 19th century, imported as aristocratic decoration for country estates. They adapted with ease and soon spread to public lands, where they were embraced for their beauty and as evidence of environmental health. Only in recent decades, as conservationists’ preoccupation with the geographical origins of species has intensified, have these immigrants with established communities on Long Island, in the Hudson Valley and on Lake Ontario become perceived as a problem.