Mute swans have been swimming in the lagoon at the Palace of Fine Arts since the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition. At one point there were as many as 14, including some younger ones. After the weekend killing, the population has been reduced to just one.
"I'm the one that pulled her out and her neck was broke clean through," said caretaker Gayle Hagerty.
Hagerty is still devastated by the senseless killing of a mute swan at the Palace of Fine Arts over the weekend. She says she got a call from fellow swan caretaker Judy Whilt who found the bird floating in the lagoon early Saturday morning.
The killing leaves only one swan, 13-year-old Blanche.
"They broke her neck," said Whilt. "I can't even conceive of it. Whether it's part of the struggle or whether that's how they probably tried to remove her from the pond, was by her neck."
"This is clearly just a random act of horrific violence," said Captain Vicky Guldbech of San Francisco Animal Care & Control, who are investigating the killing and believe it occurred sometime between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. Saturday. Numerous empty beer bottles were also found in the area.
There have been three similar swan killings there in the past 25 years. A swan that disappeared last April has never been found.
"I can't imagine why somebody would want to kill an innocent, beautiful animal like this, or any animal," said Guldbech. "So it just leads me to believe was stupid, either a horrible prank or kids joking around."
News of the swan killing was disturbing to visitors to the lagoon Monday evening.
"It just seemed gruesome, like it did not just die of natural causes. Somebody actually went out of their way to deliberately kill it," said visitor Jamal Taylor. "It was just surprising."
The caretakers are offering a $500 reward. Any information should go to San Francisco Animal Care & Control.
Swans are companion birds, so the caretakers are hoping to possibly introduce a male companion to the lone swan left as soon as they can find one.