LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Lilibet the swan was living a peaceful life in south Lakeland.
She is named after Queen Elizabeth II, who donated swans from her royal flock in the 1950s.
Every few years, when the Lake Morton swan population gets too large, the city of Lakeland holds a sale to find new homes for some of the swans.
Becca, who did not want to share her last name, bought Lilibet a few years ago and has been taking care of her at her home in Highland Village mobile home park.
“We love the swans. They’re just beautiful and majestic and part of Lakeland. We wanted to enjoy them. The retirement community just loved them,” she said.
After Lilibet’s mate died of pneumonia, Becca bought another swan, from outside the city of Lakeland, named Henry.
“They used to come up here and sit and we fed them right here. They would sit right here on the porch,” she said.
In recent months, Becca noticed injuries to the flock of birds in her care.
“We put up security cameras and security lights and the noise makers. We’ve used wolf urine to go around the property lines,” said Becca.
Her security cameras captured video of a bobcat launching high into the air trying to catch a bird. On more than one occasion, Becca chased a bobcat away.
“It was pure adrenaline for the safety and love of her and him, not wanting anything to happen to them,” said Becca.
Becca couldn’t talk about what happened next. Her emotions remain high.
On Monday, a bobcat killed Lilibet, along with 15 ducks.
All Creatures Wildlife Control’s Dustin Hooper, a professional trapper, caught one of the bobcats Thursday night.
“Fifteen ducks later and one swan later, somebody had to do something,” he said.
He baited the bobcat with a live chicken.
“But you don’t want to hurt the chicken so in the back of the trap I built a wall to protect any live bait I’ve got in there,” explained Hooper.
While killing prey is natural behavior for a bobcat, Hooper points out it is dangerous to have these animals prowling in such a residential area.
“Bobcats are strong, strong animals. I’m not totally shocked that they took a swan down, I’m a little surprised they didn’t go to something smaller but there’s proof right there they can take down animals bigger than themselves,” said Hooper.
Hooper will release the bobcat into the wild north of Lakeland. The trapper will then return to Becca’s neighborhood Friday night to attempt to find the other, larger bobcat, which is likely a male.
“I have faith in Dustin that we’re going to get it. We got this one the first night so I have faith we’re going to get the next one,” said Becca.