Colgate community bids loving farewell to Adam and Eve

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Swan beside Taylor Lake

Photo by Andrew Daddio

Always known as Adam and Eve, the mute swans that have graced Taylor Lake since 1929 will no longer make their home at Colgate University. The announcement came after the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) published new draft regulations governing their maintenance and care.

“Adam and Eve have been a memorable part of the Colgate landscape for generations of students, alumni, and parents,” said Brian Hutzley, vice president for finance and administration. “They will be missed.”

DEC regulations, proposed last month, will require that any person or organization owning mute swans hold a license for nonnative species — the birds were brought to North America from Europe in the 19th century to nest on New World estates.

Swans must either have their wings clipped or they must be confined to an enclosed space, ensuring that they are unable to escape into the wild. In addition, the birds must be tagged and surgically sterilized. The DEC implemented its rules after conducting research into the impact of mute swans on the environment and allowing for a public comment period earlier this year.

These requirements will have a substantial impact on the quality of life for Adam and Eve. Therefore, the owner from whom the university leases the swans has decided to sell his stock to swan owners in Ohio, and Colgate will not seek to purchase or lease new swans.

“When mute swans became a part of the Colgate tradition in 1929, they were little more than a curiosity in America,” said biology department chair Tim McCay. “DEC research now indicates that the population is capable of reducing the quality of native environments.”

John Pumilio, director of sustainability at Colgate and ornithology instructor for the National Audubon Society, believes the new policies are in the best interest of the swans and the environment. “Mute swans consume up to eight pounds of aquatic vegetation per day, often uprooting more plants than they can consume,” he said.

The swans also threaten native ducks, grebes, and mergansers that try to nest on and around Taylor Lake.

The final determination no longer to have swans on campus comes as the Class of 2015 prepares for commencement. Their class logo features a unique swan graphic, an illustration that will continue to represent them as alumni.

“The Class of 2015 symbol makes an even more important statement now,” said Timothy Mansfield, associate vice president for advancement and alumni relations. “It reminds us that Adam and Eve will live on in our hearts. Decades of alumni have fond memories of our swans swimming gracefully across the lake in the shadows of the university chapel.”

Share your memories and photos of Adam and Eve online using the hashtag #colgateswans, and review frequently asked questions here.