Brandon Keim writes of the unfortunate controversy surrounding a plan to eradicate New York’s mute swan population. The plan has provoked a lot of strong feelings, but experts claim there is no easy solution to the problem.
First, the problem: “Mute swans are not native to North America. New York’s population descended from escapees imported for ornamental gardens in the late 1800s. Weighing up to 40 pounds apiece, they can eat 10 pounds of aquatic vegetation daily. In their absence, that food might be eaten by native wildlife. Mute swans are also aggressive during nesting season, and have been blamed for attacking ducks and pushing out other waterfowl.”
The proposed solution, and source of concern for many New Yorkers: “New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation issued a draft of a plan to reduce New York’s wild mute swan population to zero by 2025. Nests and eggs would be destroyed; a few adults might be sterilized or permitted to live on in captivity, but the rest would be killed.”
The problem strikes at a difficult problem of managing wildlife populations in urban settings: many species are invasive, but does that make them second class food chain citizens? Bryan Swift, a DEC waterfowl specialist and lead author of the plan is quoted in the story with his take: “We have an obligation to sustain native species. The question then is, ‘At what level?’ But in the case of introduced species, I don’t think we have that same obligation.”