Lakeland’s iconic swans got their annual veterinary checkups Wednesday. Fifty of the long-necked birds were rounded up by city employees on boats Tuesday and put in large holding pens overnight.
One by one, the city-owned birds were weighed and examined in a tent set up on the south shore of Lake Morton. Members of the public, including many children, were able to hold and comfort the swans as they waited to be seen by veterinarian Price Dickson of My Pet’s Animal Hospital.
Seven-year-old Atticus Bauer, whose dad works for the city, was very excited to hold an Australian black swan.
Dickson said the 11-month-old male weighed 12 pounds and was healthy, but she noted he had “bumblefoot” — or blisters — on his left foot. The malady can be caused by being overweight from being fed bread, which is not good for waterfowl. The excess weight puts pressure on the birds’ feet when they walk.
Like other cygnets born in the past year, the swan was microchipped. Veterinary medicine intern Kayla Brenk checked his beak and gave him a dose of ivermectin.
The original swans on Lake Morton were donated by Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in 1957. Since then, the flock has grown to include white English mute swans, black swans and a few others with gray and black variations.
To ensure the flock’s health, the Swan Roundup began in 1980. The annual ritual also helps the city keep tabs on the size of the flock.
“The Lake Morton swans are a community icon … It is very important to us to make sure our Lakeland flock is doing well so we schedule the Swan Roundup each year with the primary purpose to check on the health of our birds,” said Bob Donahay, director of Parks, Recreation & Cultural Arts.
Donahay added, “It costs about $10,000 per year to feed and care for Lakeland’s domestic swans. If it wasn’t for the generous support from My Pet’s Animal Hospital, that cost would be much more because they offer their services at no charge.”
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