No action taken for a mute swan control ordinance at Greenwood Lake

WEST MILFORD. It appears that at this time the Township Council will rely on education as the way to cope with aggressive “Mute Swans” that have been harassing people on Greenwood Lake. Following discussion at a recent council meeting the local governing board did not give consensus to go ahead with preparation of a suggested control ordinance. The Animal Protection League of New Jersey has offered to help remedy the problem through educational methods.

16 Nov 2020 | 01:24

Several speakers at a Township of West Milford Council meeting recently spoke of the need to educate the community and its visitors about mute swans who cause havoc on Greenwood Lake.

The general opinion of the speakers was that a display of educational signs with informative materials for homeowners who rent their properties would help. The people addressing the township officials asked for passage of an ordinance that would make it illegal to harass or pursue the swans. The council did not support the passage of any mute swan control ordinance,

“Having another law on the books isn’t necessarily going to make the situation go away,” said Mayor Michele Dale. “An ordinance is only as good as to the extent it can be enforced. There is a challenge in getting state funding and patrols for the lake.”

Aggressive mute swans, so named because they make a hiss sound rather than honk, caused numerous problems at the lake during the past summer. A woman and her four year old grandson had to seek shelter behind a pontoon boat when aggressive swans attacked them while they were on a jet ski.

Greenwood Lake Commission New Jersey Chair Paul Zarrillo said he too was attacked by the swans when he was doing work on the lake. Many other reports of aggression by the mute swans were presented to the commissioners by additional concerned residents who had also experienced problems.

Zarrillo called in U.S. Dept. of Agriculture representatives to observe the birds, who apparently exhibited their best behavior for the visitors by not acting aggressively.

Among the speakers at the meeting was Angi Metler, Executive Director of the Animal Protection League of New Jersey. She is grateful that the swans are deemed non-aggressive. She said she believes there will be more incidents on the lake involving mute swans. She saw need for a fix to the problem situation and said she is ready to help accomplish that. An advertising company reportedly is ready to educate visitors and renters through signage.

Mayor Michele Dale said there is a protocol that addresses situations of swans attacking humans. She believes everyone must become educated on the subject

“It’s the same as living with the bears,” said Dale. “Residents need to be aware of wildlife on the lake. It’s all about awareness and education. When people apply for Airbnb they should be provided with a pamphlet so that they understand the swans and utilizing the lake.”

She said the council has to review educational signs and pamphlets before they are approved for distribution. Dale said if swans are deemed as aggressive the action is to follow protocol and that is what the Greenwood Lake Commission has done. Once the council is provided with educational material, support and location of municipal properties where signs will be posted, council members will do a review before granting permission to post signs and proceed with distribution of educational materials and signage.