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Three swans found dead

June 29, 2004|by RYAN C. TUCK

ryant@herald-mail.com

Three of the five mute swans at City Park died this weekend, leaving park visitors Monday to wander and wonder where the two remaining birds were hiding.

Two of the city's five swans were found dead Saturday and another was found Sunday, city spokeswoman Karen Giffin said.

The city's Director of Administrative Services John Budesky said this weekend's deaths were not natural but didn't want to speculate on the cause. He called the deaths "odd."

It was not the first time swans have met with an "odd" death in City Park. In April 1983, a rare black swan and eight mallards were clubbed to death. In September of that same year, two baby swans were clubbed to death.

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In 1985, the first baby swan to be born in City Park in six years died of food poisoning.

When asked if he thought these deaths could be of similar causes, Budesky said he wasn't sure.

"We hope that's not the case but at this point we don't want to rule anything out," he said.

"We're very disappointed," Giffin said. "Swans are a very important part of our City Park and have been for years."

Barb Snyder, of Clear Spring, and Mindy Sorensen, of Boonsboro, were upset to hear about the swans' deaths.

"We enjoyed having them here, enjoyed seeing them," Sorensen said. "Give my condolences."

In July 2001, the city's last swan died of natural causes.

After that, the city received about $4,500 in contributions from people who wanted to help buy new swans for the park. By the summer of 2002, five mute swans were swimming in the lake.

Mute swans, one of seven species of swans worldwide, typically live between 15 and 25 years.

Budesky and Giffin said an investigation was under way with the help of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. SPCA officials took the bodies to Frederick, Md., on Monday to try to determine a cause of death.

"We hope to find out as soon as we can," Budesky said. "We want to make sure we're taking every precaution if it was something that is preventable."

It's not known whether draining of the lower lake for the final phase of a project to replace walls around the lake was a factor, Budesky said.

That work began in mid-May.

The lower lake's water level is now about 18 inches at its deepest point. It is normally as deep as 4 feet.

The swans "were certainly a nice addition to the park," Budesky said. "We're going to look to restoring swans to our park as soon as possible."

Kelly Nadenbousch, of Hagerstown, along with her children, Dillon, 10, and Sky, 8, hope so.

"The swans are definitely (our) favorite," Kelly said. "We love this park, it's like one of those fairy tale places."

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