Apr 18, 2013 3:47 PM by NBC News
(WFLA) New signs dot the banks of Lake Morton in downtown Lakeland, Florida warning people not to feed or touch nesting swans. City officials say the signs are necessary in the wake of recent surveillance images that show people harassing the birds.
"Last year we had a real issue. We had dozens of swan eggs stolen or damaged," said Lakeland spokesman Kevin Cook. "This year we thought we'd be a little proactive, and as each mating pair of swans, as they were building their nests we went and set up some game cameras so we could kind of watch and see what takes place."
What the city found was pretty disturbing.
"Well we've got some footage of some individuals actually grabbing a swan by the neck and pulling it off the nest so they can take pictures of the eggs, and that was done at night," Cook said.
City officials say even families have been caught on camera harassing the nesting swans.
As for residents who frequent the lake, many say they believe people aren't intentionally hurting the swans. They're simply uninformed.
"Up to this point I don't think people paid much attention. They were just birds," explained resident Irene Smith who walks Lake Morton daily with her husband. "Now people will realize how important the birds really are, and they'll be more careful and take better care of them."
Lakeland resident Julia Bates says she hopes the new warning signs encourage people to use a little more common sense.
"Think of it if you had a child you wouldn't want it to be messed with. Same thing with the nests, just look from a distance, but don't disrupt what's there so everybody can enjoy this place," Bates said.
City officials say visitors who do feed or harass nesting swans are violating a city ordinance and will be caught on camera.
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