LAKELAND - City workers in Lakeland looked more like veteran ranchers Tuesday, but instead of cattle, they herded swans on Lake Morton.
For the 33rd straight year, the city rounded up all the iconic swans and temporarily locked them in pens ahead of their annual check-up with the veterinarian Wednesday morning.
Two crews from the Parks and Recreation department spent a couple hours scouring the lake.
One guy, armed with a net, practically hanged off the front of the boat while a trusted colleague took the wheel.
"As long as he keeps that thing turned sharp, we'll catch them," said Steve Plat, who has been catching swans for the city for more than a dozen years. "To us, this is the best day of our job."
The crews carefully plucked all 71 resident swans out of the water, usually after the birds tire themselves out from trying to fly.
The swans' wings are clipped, so they don't make it very far.
"It's kind of like swamp people, Lakeland-style. There are no gators, and it's a little more graceful because their swans," said Barbara Cagle, one of many onlookers who stopped to watch the herding of the swans.
The staff in charge of caring for them learned the proper technique over the years.
"They're pretty good at it. They've been doing it a long time, " said Kevin Cook, Spokesman for the City of Lakeland.
On Wednesday, Doctor Patricia Mattson and her team will do a full exam on the swans, free of charge.
She makes sure they all are micro chipped, free of disease, and up to date on vaccinations.
"The swans are part of Lakeland. They are our icon. They're our logo," Cook said.
"We've had families come down to the lake for years feeding them and they're just part of us."
As the story goes, Lakeland got its first pair of swans from Queen Elizabeth back in the 50's.
Ever since, there's been a strong connection with the majestic bird and the community, along with the workers who take care of them.
"It's different and fun and to do something that we know the community cares about and take care of, it's great," Plat said.
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