BRICK — Mother Nature works in mysterious ways.

A male mute swan named "Alfie" may have been accidentally saved from certain death when it was discovered on Friday near Seawood Harbor trapped in fishing line, the New York Times reported.

The death that awaited Alfie, a longtime fixture of these waters, had been a penalty imposed by federal officials who deemed the bird too "aggressive" to people on jet skis.

Supporters, including the mayor, had been seeking a reprieve in the form of relocating the swan to a willing sanctuary at Popcorn Park Animal Refuge. But state and federal officials shrugged their shoulders, explaining that relocating wildlife was just not something that is done, especially when the wildlife is considered an invasive species.

Getting trapped in the fishing line, which prompted an emergency rescue by Popcorn Park, seems to have changed all that.

On Saturday, Ocean County state Sen. Jim Holzapfel and Assemblymen Greg McGuckin and John Catalano praised the rescue, issuing a joint statement that they were "ecstatic that the USDA and Popcorn Park were able to work with us to successfully save Alfie."

Supporters of the swan say people on Jet Skis had been instigating the territorial bird before somebody complained and alerted the USDA. These residents tried to broker a deal to move Alfie to Popcorn Park.

At first, officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state Department of Environmental Protection did not seem to be clear as to how that process might play out, with federal officials telling township residents Irene and Tony Almeida that they needed a state permit. The state, in turn, passed the buck back to the feds.

On Friday, a spokeswoman for the DEP and its Division of Fish and Wildlife explained that it could not issue a relocation permit because the state has an agreement deferring matters dealing with certain aggressive wildlife species, such as mute swans, to the USDA.

"Mute swans, an exotic species that is not native to New Jersey, can behave aggressively and pose a danger to public safety," the spokeswoman said. "In the case of the swan in Brick Township, Ocean County, the USDA was notified about a swan acting aggressively and sent inspectors out to observe the area."

The spokeswoman added that the Division of Fish and Wildlife does not have authority to relocate non-native and aggressive wildlife to private institutions.

And so it seemed on Friday that Alfie was due for his swan song. Until, somehow, he got caught in that fishing line.

As John Bergmann, director of Popcorn Park, told the New York Times this weekend: "It probably saved his life."

Sergio Bichao is the digital managing editor of New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-775-9793 or email

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