ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando police detectives arrested a man accused of taking two baby swans from their nests at Lake Eola Park.
The theft of the cygnets, or newly hatched swans, was recorded by bystanders Sunday who later reported the incident to Orlando police. At the time, the man who took the young waterfowl told the people watching he was rescuing the babies from wildlife that could potentially eat them.
Frank Howard, one of those bystanders, shared the video with News 6.
In the video, a man with a red cooler can be heard telling Howard and his girlfriend he is with a “Lake Eola Park” rescue and the babies will be “dead tomorrow” if he doesn’t take them. He was then seen on video batting away the angry mother and father swans as he scooped up the fluffy swan babies and dropped them into the cooler.
“He reached down and grabbed one, and the mom started going crazy and he hit the mom with the cooler,” Howard said. “He was saying, ‘Yeah, we rescue them all the time. I’ve done this many times, look at my arms are all scratched up from the fathers attacking me.’”
Orlando police recovered the baby swans Monday evening. Both cygnets appear to be doing well. According to Orlando Commissioner Patty Sheehan the babies will be reunited with their parents soon.
Richard Harger Sr., 71, is facing charges of third-degree grand theft, according to an arrest warrant signed by Judge Chad Alvaro Monday.
His bond was set at $1,000. Harger is currently being held at the Orange County Jail.
According to the warrant, detectives were able to identify Harger as the person who took the cygnets after a bystander shared a photo he took of the red Jeep he was seen in while leaving Lake Eola Park. The photo captured the vehicle’s tags, leading detectives to Harger.
🦢RESCUED: You may have heard about the 2 cygnets stolen from a Lake Eola nest Sunday. A group of our detectives & officers, including Officer Sierra, worked quickly to track the babies down. They were rescued yesterday, and the man who took them is charged with grand theft. pic.twitter.com/ifRzvNcc0K— Orlando Police (@OrlandoPolice) May 11, 2021
Detectives went to the 71-year-old’s home where they found a sign outside the front gate that read “4 Da Birds,” according to the warrant. Detectives said they called Harger and he agreed to speak with them near the gate to his property.
Harger told detectives he took the baby swans “because he thought they were going to get hurt.” Harger then went inside and brought out a laundry basket with the two young waterfowl inside and gave them to detectives.
According to the warrant, Harger said he has not taken swans or other birds from Lake Eola park before and he apologized.
Orlando police said Harger has also been trespassed from all Orlando city parks.
Harger said he has 200 other birds at his home.
These birds include ducks and parrots.