A Florida city is selling dozens of its beloved swans to the public, after birds donated by Queen Elizabeth II in 1957 led to overpopulation.
Swans have lived in Lakeland, Florida, since at least 1923, according to the city, but by 1953 had all been eaten by alligators or fallen prey to dogs.
A Lakeland woman who was living in England at the time wrote to the Queen to ask for a gift of swans.
The given pair bred, and now 36 mute white swans are being sold.
The city, which has a swan as its symbol, did a “wellness check” on their entire flock prior to the sale. Proceeds of the sale will go towards their $10,000 annual feeding budget.
“It’ll be hard to say goodbye,” Parks and Recreation Supervisor Steve Platt, who is known as “The Swanfather”, told the Lakeland Ledger newspaper.
The swans all live around Lake Morton in the city of 112,000 people, about 35 miles east of Tampa.
The city is charging $400 per swan. The buyers were chosen via raffle, and were contacted on Friday to arrange for pick up.
Today, at least 80 mute swans reside on the densely populated lake, raising concerns about safety. In the last two years seven birds on Lake Morton have been struck by vehicles.
The city has previously instituted lower speed limits around the lake and reconfigured driving patterns in hope of reducing swan deaths, but there is still the issue of limited space in the lake, which is only about a mile wide, , Kevin Cook, director of communications for the city of Lakeland said.
Lakeland has held swan auctions in the past. The most recent sale was in 2014, and the city sold 20 swans.