Letter to the Editor: Swan Family Harassed by Jet Skiers Now Face USDA Death Sentence

A swan family is in danger of being killed by the USDA after being harassed by jet skiers and trying to protect their young in a NY/NJ area lake.

Photo: Sheila Bolin

Just weeks after a 5-year-old-girl was celebrated for saving a struggling swan from a storm drain in Merrick, N.Y., swans in a lake on the border of New York and New Jersey are under attack. In Defense of Animals and The Committee for Humane Geese Control are calling on the Greenwood Lake Commission to rescind its request to “assess” a swan that would likely lead to the government’s slaughter of an innocent swan family living in Greenwood Lake.

With a noted increase of visitors due to COVID-19 over the past several months, jet skiers have harassed, chased, and attempted to drown a family of seven swans in Greenwood Lake, a 9-mile lake in Passaic County.

Recently, jet skiers tormented and antagonized the swan family by circling them and separating the baby swans from their parents in the lake. When the male swan tried to defend his babies, people called the Greenwood Lake Commission to complain about the situation and claimed the swan was “dangerous” for protecting his young.

Paul Zarillo of the Greenwood Lake Commission then called the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services arm to “assess” the family of swans.

Swan experts have since informed local activists that the USDA’s policy may lead to the killing of the entire family.

“Unfortunately, many swans and other wildlife are deemed as aggressive and killed under the guise of a nuisance,” said Sheila Bolin, CEO of The Regal Swan Foundation. “In fact, most humans cannot distinguish between ‘defensive’ behavior such as protecting oneself or family, and ‘aggressive’ behavior which is attacking for no justification.”

“This is yet another heartbreaking and infuriating example of wild animals suffering and potentially losing their lives because of people behaving badly,” said Lisa Levinson, of In Defense of Animals. “This swan family shouldn’t be killed because of inconsiderate visitors to their Greenwood Lake home, which is the swans’ natural habitat.”

In Defense of Animals is urging The Greenwood Lake Commission to cancel its request for assessment of the swan and to employ non-lethal approaches, such as enforcing wake limits along the lake and establishing safe boundaries around the swans, both of which promote the humane treatment of swans and avoid future conflicts.

This issue has provoked the concern of caring animal advocates across the nation. Last week, Los Angeles-based journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell interviewed In Defense of Animals’ Lisa Levinson, swan expert Sheila Bolin and local resident Michelle Shenker on her show Jane Unchained.

The former HLN news anchor commented, “‘We’re going to assess these aggressive swans’… that’s what they always say when animals stand up for themselves when they’re being harassed, and tortured and bullied by humans. The USDA could come in and say, ‘let’s get rid of the swans.’ This is what we’re doing around the world. This is why we’re in the sixth mass extinction right now.”

Concerned citizens can tell the officials below not to harm the swans and ask them to cancel the USDA swan assessment in favor of nonlethal approaches and legal enforcement of existing wake limits. To save the swans, please contact:

Eric Pain, Greenwood Lake Commission

Phone: 973.962.2241

Email: Eric.Pain@dep.nj.gov

Congressman Josh Gottheimer

Glen Rock Office: 201.389.1100 (9 a.m.- 5 p.m.)

Washington, D.C.: 202. 225.4465

Email: Josh.gottheimer@mail.house.gov

Lisa Levinson
In Defense of Animals
lisa@idausa.org, 215-620-2130

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