Feathers fly over plan to relocate surviving swan to zoo

The swan saga continues.

More than a week after the killing of one of the last two swans in the Palace of Fine Arts lagoon, animal-control officials said Tuesday they will soon move the remaining swan to San Francisco Zoo for safety — but only temporarily.

Blanche will be removed from the lagoon at the Palace as soon as today. She will be moved to the zoo for six weeks, where she will undergo a medical checkup and treatment, but she will be returned to the lagoon after that six-week period.

Animal Care and Control officials held a private hearing Tuesday afternoon with the swan’s longtime caretakers, who are vehemently opposed to the plan. Gail Hagerty, who has tended to the iconic swans for nearly two decades, said the zoo’s facilities are “like a dog kennel” and that it will be hard for 13-year-old Blanche to cope.

“Our one concern is that there is a commitment to return her to the lagoon,” Hagerty said. “We’ll just have to trust that’s going to happen.”

Caretakers said they felt railroaded by the decision to move Blanche, who has lived her whole life in the lagoon.

Hagerty said she and other caretakers hope to have a male found and donated to the lagoon to give Blanche company and better protection.

“[Blanche is] safer being left where she’s at,” Hagerty said.

Swans have become iconic at the Palace of Fine Arts. They have waded in its lake since the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition.

However, they’ve been targeted several times over the years by cruel visitors. In the last

25 years, three swans have been killed. Blanche’s mother, 19-year-old Friday, went missing from the lagoon in April.

“We believe the swan is vulnerable,” Animal Care and Control spokeswoman Deb Campbell said.

ACC officials say there are not enough protections at the lagoon, as evidenced by the disturbing killing of Blanche’s 5-year-old sister, named Monday, on Nov. 13.

A necropsy revealed that a human broke the swan’s neck sometime between 2 and 6 a.m. Neighbors said there had been a “huge party” in the area that night. Animal control officials say the zoo will be a safe and secure place for Blanche, who will enjoy the company of other swans there.

The move doesn’t mean swans will never wade in the lagoon again, Campbell said. After Blanche is moved, Animal Care and Control will investigate ways to install protections, she said.

Meanwhile, the search for Monday’s killer continues. On Tuesday, Campbell said there were no leads in the case.

A reward is being offered for information leading to the swan killer’s arrest. Anyone with information is urged to call Capt. Vicky Guldbech at (415) 554-9400.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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