Overweight swans checked by veterinarians on Lake Morton

Polk County

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Eighty-four swans were poked, prodded and weighed Wednesday on Lake Morton as part of an annual tradition to ensure the iconic Lakeland birds are healthy.

For the first time, My Pet’s Animal Hospital was at the helm of the wellness checks.

“It’s important that we’re making sure that we’re taking care of these guys,” said Dr. Erin Rothrock, a veterinarian. “They’re healthy. They’re being well cared for. If there’s something we can do to improve their health and quality of life, we go ahead and do those things.”

In 1957, Queen Elizabeth sent two breeding swans to Lakeland. Ever since, the population has grown and so has the region’s love for the swans.

Dr. Rothrock found some swans had ear mites and foot sores.

A lot of them, Dr. Rothrock said, were overweight, in part because of the food they are fed by the public.

“A lot of it is just that these are not very active birds. They live on this nice cozy lake. They don’t have to run away from a lot of predators, they don’t have to do a whole lot,” said Dr. Rothrock.

Things were off to a rocky start when fog delayed the swan roundup by about an hour on Tuesday. Veterinarians and city employees were basking in a sunny, dry day surrounded by dozens of swans on Wednesday,

“Kind of terrifying, a little bit exhausting and just kind of surreal,” said Amy Jackson, a city employee who was holding a swan.

“I don’t know why it has to be so close to my face. Really, we’re friends. We talked about this – how this was going to go,” joked Julie Adams.

The swans are not wild birds. They are domesticated animals under the care of the city.

“They live on a lake but they’re still domesticated birds. So just like your pets at home, if you take your pet to the vet, we have to do the same thing with these swans,” said Kevin Cook, director of communications for the City of Lakeland.

Team members scanned for microchips and inserted chips in younger swans.

Most of the swans were healthy and were set free to swim away in Lake Morton.

Others, about a dozen or so, were taken to My Pets Animal Hospital for additional medical treatment.

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