Area’s voice welcome on mute swans

We have some mute swans in Chautauqua County on Cassadaga Lake, and I have not heard that they are causing any particular problems.

Several of my constituents have contacted me who want them left alone, especially since Cassadaga considers them to be a local symbol. We are also extremely fortunate in our area to have renowned bird and nature centers, such as the Roger Tory Peterson Institute and the Jamestown audubon Society and Sanctuary, which are tremendous assets.

I strongly believe that everyone’s viewpoint should be taken into account, so I am forwarding their concerns to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) which legally has jurisdiction over this matter.

There is no doubt that mute swans are gorgeous, graceful birds. They were brought to America from Europe in the late 1800s during the ornate Victorian era and subsequently escaped captivity. Wild mute swans now number around 2,200 in New York State.

The mute swan engenders strong sentimental feelings from people because it traditionally has symbolized love and romance. Everyone fondly remembers the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale about an ugly duckling that was teased mercilessly and matured into a beautiful swan.

However, DEC contends that heavy populations of wild mute swans are causing significant problems downstate and on Lake Ontario, arguing that they are aggressive and spread E. coli bacteria that threatens public health and municipal water supplies. They also attack native birds, such as the endangered black tern, which has disappeared from areas overrun by mute swans. Also, it is contended that they pose a threat near airports because they can interfere with aircraft.

These swans have proliferated in large numbers and are considered to be an invasive species since they are non-native to New York. That’s why conservationists are concerned and have proposed eliminating wild mute swans in the state by 2025, although DEC would allow some to be kept in captivity by licensed, responsible owners.

The DEC is hoping that birds native to North America such as the tundra and trumpeter swans become more common in New York.

The DEC’s draft management plan just finished its public comment period on Feb. 21 and agency personnel have begun reviewing the information that was submitted.

I have gone to bat for the people of my district who have concerns so that their voices can be counted. On their behalf, we contacted the DEC and they said they are willing to consider additional remarks from my constituents, even though the February 21 deadline has passed. If anyone wishes to share their viewpoint, I encourage them to submit that information to DEC right away. People can email comments to the DEC’s Wildlife Health Office at fwwildlf@gw.dec.state.ny.us. If anyone does not have access to email, my office can be contacted at 518-455-3563 and we will be happy to forward their comments.

Citizens also will have a second crack at officially weighing in. DEC officials said that they will take into account the input already received and will present a revised draft management plan sometime in early spring.

This revised proposal also will be open to another public comment period, so people can have their say on the revisions.

I loved spending lots of time outdoors tramping around the fields, woods, and streams on our farm when I was growing up, and took an ornithology science class in college, so I read the DEC’s draft management plan with great interest and look forward to their proposed revisions.

Catharine Young is the New York state senator for Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany and a portion of Livingston counties.