The Great Black Swan Debate

The Great Black Swan Debate title=
Black swans swimming in the Santa Barbara Harbor (Photo by Susan Lafond)
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By edhat staff

Animal activists and rescue groups have been debating the recent rescue of five black swans in Santa Barbara's Harbor in recent weeks.

At the beginning of the month, residents and visitors alike began marveling and snapping photos of the black swans that are rarely seen outside captivity in Southern California.

The swans were reportedly removed by a local animal rescue group and there appear to be some arguments over whether they should have been displaced at all.

An article published by the Montecito Journal and written by Gretchen Lieff (writer and Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network board member) and Nick Masuda, states the Animal Rescue Team led by Julia Di Sieno captured the five black swans. 

"The scene was a chaotic one, as conflicting instructions led to some demanding that the black swans be left alone, while Di Sieno and her group believed the rescue effort was necessary due to the Harbor water containing materials potentially harmful to the herd," the article reads.  

Tony Masiel, President of the Santa Ynez Valley-based Animal Rescue Team, penned a letter to several local media outlets taking aim at Lieff alleging she engaged in "deplorable and disruptive behavior" during the rescue.

He claimed the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network (SBWCN) knew about the swans and failed to act and save the birds from what he deemed as an unsafe environment. He stated the Animal Rescue Team was able to rescue the swans, and "after a thorough assessment by a veterinarian" were relocated to a safe refuge at an undisclosed location.

"This was accomplished despite Gretchen's disruption, and another SBWCN volunteer verbally assaulting ART during the rescue, even attempting to hinder the rescue effort by throwing stones at the swans to shoo them away," wrote Masiel.

Shortly after his email, SBWCN responded with its own statement on the swan events. The nonprofit claims since receiving reports of the swan's location, multiple staff members and volunteers to the harbor to actively monitor them. Their staff did not witness signs of distress or danger and received multiple reports of the swans flying, according to the statement.

"Since the day the swans arrived, SBWCN staff was actively communicating with the applicable federal and state agencies to determine the best course of action. SBWCN had a plan in place to safely retrieve the swans if and when it was determined they were in danger. The team was awaiting advice from an additional expert with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during the time Animal Rescue Team (ART) was capturing the swans on Tuesday, May 4," the statement reads.

Once captured, the swans were reportedly transported to SBWCN to be examined by veterinarian Dr. Avery Berkowitz. After a full exam, it was determined the swans were in good general health and ART transported them to a private home whose residents prefer to remain anonymous.

"Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network’s primary concern was the health and safety of the swans, and staff worked with ART throughout this process to ensure the best outcome for these animals," the statement reads.

Whether the swans should have been rescued or should have been left alone appears to be up for debate. 

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 May 3, 2021: Black Swans in the Santa Barbara Harbor

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JonStowe1 May 15, 2021 10:20 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

Are you kidding?? these swans had to go. they would only cause problems

Rinconer May 14, 2021 07:04 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

Stealing is stealing even when you call it rescuing. I loved seeing the Black Swans free at the Harbor, but now they’ve been birdnapped, held hostage at a private residence, and had their wings clipped.
If you pretend you’re helping you can get away with a lot, especially if there’s no one around with critical thinking skills.

FollowingScienc... May 14, 2021 07:47 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

Di Sieno and her “Animal Rescue Team” have unfortunately become known for questionable practices in multiple instances over the years. I’ve volunteered for and supported Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network and have *never* heard negative comments about their practices.

Why does Animal Rescue Team still hold CA FWS accreditation as Wildlife Rescuers. OR, do they?

PitMix May 14, 2021 08:36 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

I've heard plenty of negative comments about WCN. And personally, when I took an injured bird to them, they said they would let me know the outcome. When I called in I never got a call back. And a vol there told me that if you bring in a common wild animal like a crow, they normally just euthanize it because there are a bunch out there and they don't want to spend their resources on an animal like that. Should I go on?

Roger May 14, 2021 09:33 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

I have called Wildlife Care before probably at least a dozen times every time I have called to check on an animal I had picked up they always told me the outcome. I have heard nothing but positive things about them. I have heard County Animal Control calls where animals were dropped off to them for care.. People can say what they want about them but I won't believe it..I got a call last week from a real angry person accusing me and Edhat about saying they killed one of these swans I'm starting to wander now bunch of weirdos in this town..

Bird May 14, 2021 02:16 PM
The Great Black Swan Debate

Animal Rescue Team is NOT listed as a Fish and Wildlife accredited wildlife facility. They lost that accreditation several years ago. The only one listed in SB County is the SBWCN; odd that they could cooperate with di Sieno. https://wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Laboratories/Wildlife-Investigations/Rehab/Facilities.

SBTownie May 14, 2021 03:34 PM
The Great Black Swan Debate

Pit, I would be interested to hear more and I am not saying you are wrong. I take several animals a year to WCN and donate as well. I volunteered there about 20 years ago and I literally was taking care of pigeons (does it get more common and unappreciated?) so I'm somewhat doubtful about the claims of euthanizing a crow but now you have me concerned. We had an incident with an animal this year that I was told was doing fine upon intake yet was never returned to our area (it would have been impossible to miss). So hearing your comments I now find myself wondering what goes on there...

Zenyatta19 May 14, 2021 06:27 PM
The Great Black Swan Debate

I’m sorry you had that experience but I have never known SBWCN to euthanize any animal because there are “ a lot of them”, Especially crows. If that were the case they wouldn’t be necessary, because nearly all of the animals they rescue, there are a lot of. They do amazing work for all animals. It is an expensive and time consuming endeavor. With so many volunteers working and animals needing care sometimes the people fall through the cracks( not getting a phone call back). It’s not about you.

a-1621064365 May 15, 2021 12:39 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

I work at the SBWCN and I can ASSURE YOU that we do not euthanize ANY healthy viable animal like the crows! Last year we took on over 300 crows. Sounds like we had a volunteer that misunderstood a situation.

a-1621064603 May 15, 2021 12:43 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

Sorry, Pit.
We often agree, but you are a peculiar activist. Maybe you have deeper concerns. I think we knew each other at Count Animal Services.
Our experiences differ, often hugely. I can't give credence to your hidden, secondary allegations, that seem to have an agenda, without evidence, and I would hope no one would disparage such organizations. We've both been on the front lines. I give all the front-line volunteers, workers and activists praise.
If you lost your dog to the government, I'm deeply sorry.

a-1621064693 May 15, 2021 12:44 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

I can ASSURE YOU that we do not euthanize ANY healthy viable animal like the crows! Last year we took on over 300 crows. Sounds like we had a volunteer that misunderstood a situation. - SB Wildlife Care volunteer

a-1621065093 May 15, 2021 12:51 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

SBTownie, if it was a wild animal, how could its return have been :impossible to miss"?
If they're wild you shouldn't know they are there! Until they wake you by trying to get in the house or by succeeding.
It's not always appropriate to release wild animals where they were found, although that is a goal. But if an animal is brought in by a citizen who regularly traps, it makes no sense to return the animal to the same place. But many agencies do; it's recommended by science and by law.

Thank goodness litters/kits have some flexibility! At least I like to think so...

A Little Birdy May 14, 2021 08:31 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

It's worth mentioning that black swans are not native to the United States, they can however, be pruchased as pets. They're from Austraila. Not considered "wildlife" in CA. My guess is they got tired of their pond/private lake somewhere and went off to explore, it's in thieir nature to migrate.

a-1621064257 May 15, 2021 12:37 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

Santa Barbara County Animal Services used to consider turkeys and peacocks "wild animals." Not sure what state, county and city policy is now, but that's how it was less than ten years ago.

PitMix May 14, 2021 08:47 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

Their concerns about contamination in the harbor are not unfounded. Google sediment contamination in small boat harbors. 2019 City document says last harbor certification was done in 2011, but that probably means water sampling.

a-1621009707 May 14, 2021 09:28 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

But the pelicans, egrets, et cetera, all use the harbor, and no one rescues them.

Bird May 14, 2021 02:19 PM
The Great Black Swan Debate

There's an annual program, the city website says: https://www.santabarbaraca.gov/documents/Waterfront/2019%20Annual%20Clean%20Marina%20Report.pdf. There are regular postings on the marina entrances of water quality reports.

a-1621064123 May 15, 2021 12:35 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

It should still be up to the birds; I think that's the point of all posters, us, community members angry about this.
It's really, really hard to argue why all the other sea birds aren't being removed from the harbor.
It's the clearest example I've ever seen of class warfare, honestly. (It's okay if the commoners, those used to it, live in pollution, but if a photogenic group is stuck there, it's a horrible thing.)
I'm truly sorry to specify this analogy, but it seems some need it spelled out.

JonStowe1 May 15, 2021 10:18 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

Are you kidding??? Not only are these species native to AUSTRALIA they live in freshwater. We don't need more invasive species. IS there anything else you need me to spell out

JonStowe1 May 15, 2021 10:18 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

because they live in the ocean and are native to the region. These swans are neither of those things

LCP112233 May 14, 2021 08:51 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

I saw these things flying over Cachuma Lake last Saturday. They sounded like geese, but were all black. Couldn't figure out what they were. What's the harm in leaving them alone? Maybe they will breed and we can see more of them. They looked perfectly happy to me. I don't understand why these people need to intervene. Just watch them from afar, track them and see what happens.

JonStowe1 May 15, 2021 10:17 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

WHOAA stop what you are saying.Maybe they will breed... Hope to see more of them" WTF this is the exact problem with having non-native invasive species. If you want to see them go to the zoo. I'm very doubtful what you saw were black swans flying. Probably cormorants or similar

evered May 14, 2021 09:19 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

Were they endangering boats, people, other birds, or their birdy selves? If not then leave them alone. It might seem to me that they were stolen for somebodies personal back yard. Highly illegal in my book.

JonStowe1 May 15, 2021 10:05 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

Are you serious, not only are they not native here they are a freshwater species and have no business being free

a-1621010062 May 14, 2021 09:34 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

Isn’t Julia Parker a paid employee at WCN? Was she there helping catch the swans or to stop ART? How could WCN and F & W allow this. Leave the swans alone.

Bird May 14, 2021 02:20 PM
The Great Black Swan Debate

Julia Parker is the Director of Operations at the SBWCN; she was listed in the original story here of working with di Sieno on this issue.

a-1621044307 May 14, 2021 07:05 PM
The Great Black Swan Debate

So are you saying SBWCN was in agreement with “saving” the swans? No more money from me.

a-1621063870 May 15, 2021 12:31 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

Please let the community gather further information. What's been reported so far is that Wildlife Care Network communicated with other agencies and their vet examined the birds. It a crap show, I agree. Please don't attack people by name; let's let heads cool and the situation pan out. I agree it's a rotten situation all the way around.

a-1621064144 May 15, 2021 12:35 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

No they were NOT in agreement! Unfortunately they have let Di Sieno operate under their license because she is a friend of Julia Parker. BIG MISTAKE!

a-1621065525 May 15, 2021 12:58 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

That's like an emergency room doctor saying they won't treat a drug overdose or addict. If the animal shows up, Wildlife Care Network aids them. Including examining birds they DID NOT CAPTURE. I support care without questioning history.

Babycakes May 14, 2021 09:38 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

Is this the same woman or group that "rescued" a seal or sea lion, and the creature ended up being thrown out somewhere along the freeway? Maybe it fell out, but certainly it was not properly secured if it was laying injured along the side of the road. Seems like she and her activist buddies don't really care about animals, but care more about their feelings and emotions. Leave the animals alone!

a-1621044210 May 14, 2021 07:03 PM
The Great Black Swan Debate

Yup! Same idiot who used to “rescue” deer and fawns. She called herself the Deer Lady and would drive around with baby fawns in the back of her pickup telling people she rescued them. So all about attention seeking and not about the animals. A real nut case.

ZeroHawk May 14, 2021 09:53 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

so a bunch of 'heros' 'saved' the swans eh? I've been around them from Fernald's to the harbor. they looked perfectly fine, content and honking amongst themselves. In other words, the animals were kidnapped/captured and given to some 1%er rich person to hoard? yeah that's NOT ok. how about releasing them into the wild and not keep them in private captivity. Such total bs and nonsense....

sacjon May 14, 2021 10:49 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

ZERO - you should have been down there to save them from the "rescuers!" That would have been the Zerohawk we know and love haha!

ZeroHawk May 14, 2021 03:09 PM
The Great Black Swan Debate

Sac, i live very close to where this happened, i assure you if I knew about it or my kids knew, we would have been down there with a few air horns to scare them off (either the geese or ART, same out come). i really hope this issue doesn't die and the birds are released. if anyone knows who the private person is that has them, share please. I'll be hitting up ART soon. I donate to the animal rescue in town, but the folks from ART are idiots of the highest order IMO and not part of the same group.

catwrangler May 14, 2021 11:25 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

Yes I agree that the estuary or even Alice Keck Park would have been a good place for them to be moved to if the harbor was considered dangerous. I don't think ART should have the final decision and the fact they were moved to a private home - is really depriving us of enjoying nature. I agree that the 1% now get something that we all could have enjoyed.

JonStowe1 May 15, 2021 10:14 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

Are you kidding??? they have no business being here. Why are you advocating for releasing non-native species into the environment

FernaldPoint93108 May 14, 2021 11:31 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

How horrible. The swans were clearly doing fine on their own. I hope this is illegal behavior so there will be consequences.

sacjon May 14, 2021 11:53 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

FERNALD - something I can agree with you on 100%! Those swans belong in nature, not in captivity. Are their new "owners" rehabilitating them? Were they even injured? What, exactly, was the reason for caging them and taking away their freedom? ART needs to provide some answers here. This is really despicable.

JonStowe1 May 15, 2021 12:21 PM
The Great Black Swan Debate

are you kidding? they are a non-native species. they absolutely do not belong being free.If you want to see black swans go to the zoo

a-1621018816 May 14, 2021 12:00 PM
The Great Black Swan Debate

According to ART's facebook page, these swans were "dumped" into the harbor. (https://fb.watch/5uwryZ4mX9/) Yet on a different post, Di Sieno says "nope" when asked if the escaped from a private home. OK, so how did they get here? If they flew in from the wild, they should be released back into that wild. FREE THE SWANS!

JonStowe1 May 15, 2021 10:13 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

They 100% should not be released. They are non-native and have no business being here. They should have been destroyed

Hado_Ken_57 May 14, 2021 12:33 PM
The Great Black Swan Debate

So these ART people "rescued" these WILD animals from a "harmful" environmrnt... but instead of moving them to a better environment that is still in the wild, they gave them to some rich person whose gonna clip their wings and keep them as pets? FREE THE SWANS

JonStowe1 May 15, 2021 10:13 AM
The Great Black Swan Debate

They don't belong here. why are people advocating for releasing non native species to our environment. Go see them at the zoo if you want to look at swans

JonStowe1 May 15, 2021 12:04 PM
The Great Black Swan Debate

Because it seems I'm the only one with any sense in here. Why are people asking for the introduction of a foreign species. THAT MAKES NO SENSE

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