Authorities say they are searching for a suspected swan thief after six swan babies vanished from a Florida lake, leaving the mother “screaming” in the early morning hours.
The babies, called cygnets, were less than 48 hours old when city officials say they mysteriously disappeared along downtown Orlando's Lake Eola.
Park rangers said the feathered family was last seen around 10:45 p.m. Monday, WFTV reported.
Come 6 a.m. Tuesday, a ranger said, they heard the mother crying in distress. When they went to investigate, all of her babies were gone.
Lake Eola Park Manager Chris Wallace said the mother has yet to recover from her devastating loss.
“Her being back on the nest with no cygnets is a sign of grieving,” he told the Orlando Sentinel. “She’s looking for her babies and they’re not here.”
City Commissioner Patty Sheehan lashed out against the suspected culprits in a Facebook message Tuesday, warning that they will be prosecuted “to the fullest extent of the law.” She said stealing a swan in Orlando is a felony offense.
“The swan was screaming. People don’t realize, these swans are really attached to their families,” she told local reporters.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Sheehan waved off suggestions that a natural predator could have snatched the babies.
“You might lose one or two to a predator; you’re not going to lose all six, and this was the most protective male on the lake. So we do believe that this was a two-legged predator,” she said.
The beautiful birds have graced the lake since the 1920s, according to the city's website.
Today each swan has its own health record and they're given annual medical checks and vaccinations by a swan veterinarian.
Unfortunately for the missing babies, they weren't due to be microchipped until they were about a week old. Rangers told WFTV that they suspect whoever stole them knew this.
Should the thief have a change of heart, city officials say, they can drop them off at the city's Eola House, “no questions asked.”
Orlando police said their detectives are meanwhile investigating the incident.