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Solution proposed for dwindling Sun City West swans

Posted at 9:51 PM, Aug 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-22 07:43:54-04

The saga over swans continues in Sun City West.

Concerned residents reached out to ABC15 earlier this year after dozens of swans on the community's golf courses were killed by predators like coyotes and bobcats.

The swan program was introduced about 30 years ago with more than 40 swans, which have been pared down to only five today.

Residents say dozens of swans have been killed by the predators because joint surgery when they were young to keep them from flying off also limits their ability to avoid predators.

Leaders in Sun City West say the swans are well cared for, with islands in the middle of lakes for shelter. However, they hope to wrap up the swan program because of the costs associated with caring for the birds.

Their solution has been to let the swans die out naturally, which has appalled some living there, calling it an inhumane solution to a man-made problem.

"I'm sure they do care about the birds but the reality is this, they get eaten. One by one they are being picked off and the problem has just been swept under the rug," said Frank Bagnato, a concerned resident who was fighting to get the remaining swans re-homed, and keep them away from predators.

Bagnato started a Facebook group called "Frankly Speaking" and said many community members had chipped in to help research and find sanctuaries that would take in the swans after community leaders said none existed.

Bagnato said the group has found two sanctuaries in Tennessee that were eager to take in the birds, but it would cost $7,000 to transport them there.

When he approached community leaders with the solution, Bagnato said he was told they would discuss it during a meeting at the end of September. Bagnato also shared with us communication he received from the community's general manager Michael Whiting, who expressed the sanctuaries did not seem like a feasible solution, and would be too traumatic for the birds to travel thousands of miles away when they were well cared for right here in Sun City West.

"It's appalling, absolutely appalling. They refuse to see the light. They dig in their heels. How is that any less traumatic than having a coyote take a bird in its mouth? I mean pick your poison. Give the birds a chance or watch them get eaten," said Bagnato.

Ruth Forsbert, another concerned resident, said she was appalled at what she called a "cruel and callous" solution to let the birds die off naturally in their current surroundings.

"Attrition is being eaten alive, let's not sugar coat it. I guess the blood is on their hands. I am disgusted. I love Sun City West but I am disgusted at our management and in our board," said Forsberg.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Whiting said the sanctuaries found by the Facebook group could not guarantee the swans would not be eaten there.

"I have pulled up those places on Google Earth. They are anything but ideal. One has a couple of lakes that are very small and shallow. Around each of the sanctuaries is just miles and miles of woodland. Moving them from their home to a strange place in the middle of nowhere where nobody can guarantee their safety, really, this is one of those 'out of sight out of mind' solutions," said Whiting.

The board of directors meeting is set to take place in late September.