Swan song no more? Slated to be euthanized, swan at center of controversy

Swan song no more? Slated to be euthanized, swan at center of controversy may have saved himself, advocates say. A mute swan in Brick Township was slated to be euthanized after wildlife officials deemed it too aggressive. Advocates say an unexpected development may have saved the bird, which has a mate and a brood of babies.Courtesy of Irene Almeida–167640470/–167640470/–167640470/–167640470/–167640470/–167640470/–167640470/–167640470/

For days, residents of a small Ocean County neighborhood banded together to try save a swan slated to be euthanized for its aggressive behavior. They called on the mayor. They called on state lawmakers. They called on their congressional delegation.

But in the end, Alfie the swan may have inadvertently saved itself. At least that’s what its advocates in Brick Township are hoping.

A mute swan, Alfie is a stately bird with a mate and a brood of babies. But Alfie is also a non-native species that is considered invasive — in blunt words, a potential pest that isn’t entitled to protections.

That meant Alfie was slated for destruction after wildlife officials received complaints of its bellicose behavior on the waters it called home in the Seawood Harbor area of town. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the bird was documented attacking a jet ski multiple times in June, and had proven itself an unacceptable danger.

With that sentence looming, in stepped neighbors such as Irene Almeida, who tried to persuade the government to allow the swan to be relocated, instead of killed. An animal sanctuary, Popcorn Park in Lacey Township, offered to take it in, but advocates struggled to secure a permit to allow the embattled bird to be moved there.

That’s where things stood on Friday when Popcorn Park’s director, John Bergmann, got a call about a swan in distress at Seawood Harbor. It had gotten wrapped up in fishing line, as swans do from time to time as they dive, he said.

Using corn as bait, Bergmann said he was able to capture the swan unhurt. It is believed to be Alfie, who is now at the rescue, Bergmann said.

But did the mishap save the bird, or merely grant it a stay of execution?

Bergmann said it remains unclear what fate holds for the swan, and whether wildlife officials will allow it to remain at the facility. The bird remains in “sort of in a gray area” that will need to be resolved, Bergmann said.

Still, it is nothing short of “miraculous” how Alfie made it to Popcorn Park, Almeida said. She said she is hoping for the best, but is frustrated with the rules that condemned the swan, which she maintained was only trying to protect its young.

“They’ve been here since the 1800s,” she said. “When do you get to become an American?”

A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture did not respond Saturday to a request for comment.

The bird’s relocation was heralded by state Sen. Jim Holzapfel and Assemblymen Greg McGuckin and John Catalano, all of Ocean County, who called the swan “beloved by many in our community.”

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