City is sell­ing some of its beloved swans

Miami Herald - - Sports - BY JOHNNY DIAZ The New York Times

For nearly a cen­tury, swans have bobbed and preened in the placid wa­ters of Lake Mor­ton in Lake­land, mak­ing the grace­ful, long-necked birds vir­tu­ally syn­ony­mous with the city.

The birds even have royal roots: The cur­rent pop­u­la­tion is de­scended from a pair that Queen El­iz­a­beth II do­nated in 1957 af­ter Lake­land’s swans were wiped out.

Now, how­ever, the city has too many of the birds on its hands and is look­ing to off­load some of its 86 swans by hold­ing a pub­lic lot­tery Fri­day.

Lake­land is sell­ing 36 mute white swans, di­vided evenly be­tween males and fe­males, to ease over­crowd­ing at Lake Mor­ton, their long­time home in the city’s his­toric district.

“We had two re­ally good nest­ing sea­sons this past year,” said Kevin Cook, a city spokesman, not­ing that the mile-wide lake now has a num­ber of cygnets, or baby swans. “The lake can only han­dle so many birds.”

Swans have been a fix­ture in Lake­land, a city of about 112,000 peo­ple about 35 miles east of Tampa, as far back as 1923, the city’s web­site says. The city even uses a swan as its logo.

“Over time, dogs and al­li­ga­tors took those swans away,” Cook said. The swan pop­u­la­tion be­gan to dwin­dle, and by 1953 there were none left, ac­cord­ing to the city.

One res­i­dent, whose hus­band was sta­tioned with the Air Force in Eng­land, missed see­ing the swans glid­ing re­gally in the lake, Cook said. She wrote to Queen El­iz­a­beth II ask­ing if she could do­nate a pair from her royal flock.

The queen agreed. On Feb. 7, 1957, a breed­ing pair of mute swans ar­rived in Lake­land, Cook said. “Gen­er­a­tions have been there since,” he said.

Peo­ple in­ter­ested in buy­ing the swans have to reg­is­ter for the lot­tery by 5 p.m. Thurs­day. Peo­ple can buy a max­i­mum of two swans, each sell­ing for $400. As of Thurs­day morn­ing, about 66 peo­ple had signed up for the lot­tery, Cook said.

On Fri­day, the city will choose names and con­tact the buy­ers, who will have un­til Oct. 23 to pay for the swans.

On Oct. 29, they can pick up their swans. Buy­ers also have to sign a sales agree­ment in which they agree

“to pro­vide a healthy and safe habi­tat for the swans,” in­clud­ing a wa­ter source such as a pond or lake and vet­eri­nary care on an an­nual ba­sis, at a min­i­mum.

Ear­lier this month, the city held its 40th an­nual Swan Roundup, a med­i­cal checkup for the wa­ter­fowl. Em­ploy­ees from the Lake­land Parks and Recre­ation Depart­ment used boats and nets to care­fully gather the birds from the lake.

The next day, lo­cal vet­eri­nar­i­ans vol­un­teered to check on their health. The birds were mi­crochipped and weighed, and some were sep­a­rated for the sale. The city also held swan sales in 2014 and 2011.

The birds re­main beloved in Lake­land. To pro­tect them, the city re­duced the speed limit around Lake Mor­ton to 20 mph and in­stalled raised cross­walks to help slow traf­fic, Cook said.

Bob Don­a­hay, the city’s parks and recre­ation di­rec­tor, said in a state­ment that it costs the city about $10,000 a year to feed and care for the city’s do­mes­tic swans.


A swan man­ages to tem­po­rar­ily es­cape Steve Platt, right, and Steven Wil­liams dur­ing the 40th an­nual swan roundup on Lake Mor­ton on Oct. 6 in Lake­land. The roundup gives the parks and recre­ation depart­ment a chance to mon­i­tor the health and vi­tal­ity of the swan pop­u­la­tion.


Sa­man­tha Drew catches a swan for the swan roundup on Oct. 6. The cur­rent pop­u­la­tion is de­scended from a pair that Queen El­iz­a­beth II do­nated in 1957 af­ter Lake­land’s swans were wiped out.

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