NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There’s a new plan to reduce the mute swan population on Long Island.

Some say the non-lethal plan is a kinder solution, while others continue to mount a strong public opposition.

The quacking of ducks and swans in the ponds of Massapequa Preserve helps draw thousands of people daily, yet the state Department of Environmental Conservation considers the growing population of mute swans to be a destructive, invasive species imported centuries ago from Europe.

For years, the agency has proposed killing them off, arguing they eat up all the vegetation needed by other native species.

Without exception, though, everyone CBS2 spoke with was horrified at doing anything to harm the mute swans.

“I think they’re beautiful,” Massapequa resident Jean Stigliano said. “I think we should leave them alone, if there is any kind of problem then we should relocate them.”

The intense public opposition now has the state agency reversing course, saying it will instead pursue “non-lethal means,” such as coating swan eggs with corn oil so they don’t hatch, or destroying their nests.

Some locals say that’s equally cruel.

“The poor swans are still there, sitting on their eggs every day and then one day they’re all dead! How horrible, how horrible, you can’t do that,” Massapequa resident Joan Locascio said.

The state environmental department says it must also protect public safety, warning the elegant birds can become aggressive toward anyone feeding them.

That’s exactly what happened to Sean Hogan’s younger daughter.

“My daughter was feeding the swan, it came up and she had a little too much bread and it took a bite and grabbed her by her finger,” Hogan tells CBS2.

He says his daughter was not seriously harmed, arguing the same thing could happen with a family pet, and adds his family will keep feeding the swans and will oppose any attempt to remove them no matter which means are pursued.

The public will get a chance to have their say about the mute swans. A hearing on the agency’s latest plan is set for next Tuesday night in Hauppauge.

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