New York plans to use birth control to wipe out 2,500 mute swans.
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Government workers went away from a plan to execute 2,500 menacing mute swans living in New York — and will instead wipe them out through birth control. The State Department of Environmental Conservation wants to eradicate the breed by 2025, and originally planned to gun down or gas the birds. The decision for a new plan came after the DEC received more than 16,000 letters, almost all of them from angry bird lovers. More than 30,000 people also signed petitions. The new plan, which was announced Friday, could include methods like painting their eggs with oil to keep them from hatching.

“We appreciate the strong response that the draft plan received,” said Joe Martens, the commissioner of the Environmental Conservation Department. “The revised plan will seek to balance the conflicting views about management of mute swans in New York.” The state agency also stated it would hold a second opportunity for the public to comment this spring, likely April, after management plans are revised.

Reviews on how to handle the swans are mixed. The population of mute swans, which stands at 2,200, has tripled in the past three decades, state officials say, with the largest growth around the Rochester area. Wildlife experts and bird-watching groups expressed support for eradicating the birds, acknowledging that the swans were harmful to other bird species. But animal-rights groups and others denounced it as cruel, noting that state officials would exterminate the large, graceful birds by gassing and shooting them.

When is it okay for state departments to reign in animal populations that pose a threat to the ecosystem? This is an issue that’s been debated for years. Swans are far from becoming an endangered species, and their presence poses a threat to other local wildlife and habitats. Is this new “birth control” method the answer to New York’s swan problem?