ORLANDO, Fla. – A Florida man is accused of stealing two baby swans from an Orlando lake on Sunday, authorities said.
Richard Newell Harger Sr., 71, of Orlando, was arrested Monday and charged with third-degree grand theft, according to Orange County online court records.
Police were called to the Lake Eola area of Orlando on Sunday evening by bystanders who recorded Harger taking the baby swans, or cygnets, according to an arrest affidavit.
According to a video, a man later identified as Harger approached the swan’s nest, wearing a red shirt similar to volunteers at the downtown Orlando park. Police said Harger took the cygnets, putting them into a red cooler.
In a video posted on Instagram, Harger is shown blocking the adult swans as he put the cygnets into the cooler.
When bystanders protested, Harger told them he was with a “Lake Eola Park” rescue team and that the cygnets would be “dead tomorrow” if he did not remove them from the area, according to video taken at the scene.
Orlando police said they recovered the cygnets Monday evening.
According to an arrest warrant, Harger said he took the birds “because he thought they were going to get hurt.” He subsequently apologized, detectives said.
“We are thankful to the Orlando Police Department and the public on their efforts in helping to identify the individual who took the cygnets,” the Orlando Police Department said in a statement. “We are happy for the safe return of the cygnets as they are iconic and important part of Lake Eola Park. City staff has them in a secured location and will monitor their condition as they will be receiving a wellness checkup.”