Community saves Alfie the swan from euthanization

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Alfie, a father of six cygnet, saved himself from being euthanized after he was found caught in a fishing line. He is currently safe at Popcorn Park Zoo in Lacey. (COURTESY OF POPCORN ZOO ANIMAL REFUGE)

BRICK TOWNSHIP — After a swan in the Seawood Harbor neighborhood was deemed aggressive by federal authorities and set to be euthanized, the bird narrowly escaped with its life after it was caught in a fishing line.

Alfie, a male mute swan who recently became a father to six swanlings, has been the subject of a year-long debate in Brick Township. After Alfie was found caught in a fishing line on Friday, July 9, he was then relocated to Popcorn Park Animal Refuge. It was this action that saved the swan on the same day that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection had planned to euthanize Alfie.

It is standard practice to kill mute swans because they are considered an invasive species, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, but the entanglement mishap saved Alfie.

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While Alfie’s fate remained unclear, the community made efforts to also push for a relocation of his entire swan family. This effort is reportedly still on the table now that Alfie is relocated.

According to News12, John Bergmann, the zoo manager, is in talks with neighbors and federal officials to relocate the swan family. The zoo, run by the Associated Humane Societies, is nestled in the Pine Barrens in Lacey and shelters 200 animals.
The determination that the swan is aggressive came after a resident of Seawood Harbor claimed that the swan chased him while he was on a Jet Ski, according to Irene Almeida, a Seawood Harbor resident who has been outspoken about saving the swan.

“I would love to have the rest of the family relocated,” Ms. Almeida said in a televised interview with News12.

“The problem is the USDA is not allowing us to do that. They are saying if any of us actually move the family we are going to be fined and we are going to be arrested, and the Popcorn Zoo, or whichever rescue takes them, would then be fined, and they may lose their license.”

The coexistence of man and swan has been stressed by members of the Seawood community, as the waterway, situated where Kettle Creek meets Barnegat Bay, is across from the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.

Ms. Almeida said the problem comes from new residents who are antagonizing wildlife.
However, the USDA sent representatives to inspect the situation and they saw the swan attacking Jet Skis, which set the precedent for the removal of the bird, according to spokesperson Tanya Espinosa.

Mayor John G. Ducey, along with 10th District legislators, continue to push for a relocation of the mute swan family instead of killing them, but the USDA is holding firm on its stance.

“While we understand that removal of an animal is difficult for people, in situations where aggressive animals are documented, removal may occur to protect health and safety.

“We also understand that it may be difficult for people to see an animal removed when they have not experienced the aggression themselves; however, that does not negate the fact that aggression has occurred,” Ms. Espinosa said prior to Alfie being relocated to Popcorn Park Zoo.

However, since it is unclear how the USDA will account for the swan now that he is no longer in the harbor, the saga will continue. But up to this point, the swan has successfully saved himself.

Mayor Ducey suggested that those who wish to take part in the cause to save wildlife consider donating to the Popcorn Park Animal Refuge and visit ahscares.org for more information.

“Although this swan has received a great deal of media attention, he is one of so many that the AHS\Popcorn Park rescues each and every year,” Mayor Ducey said at the Brick Township Council meeting July 13.

“They rely heavily on their Res-Q funds, which provide emergency medical care for such animals, including swans.

“Please consider making a donation to their Res-Q fund to support this important work that they do at the Popcorn Park Zoo,”

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