SWANTON — Sam and Betty are searching for a new winter home.
Swanton’s signature swans have been passing the colder months in the care of students and staff at Missisquoi Valley Union, but with the school’s agriculture program hoping to expand the school may not have room for the swans this winter, explained Mark Rocheleau of the Swanton Chamber of Commerce.
The ideal would be to find someone who has a barn they aren’t using, said Suzanne Washburn, who helped obtain the current swans a few years ago. Someone who is familiar with water fowl would be best, she suggested.
The chamber will supply bedding, feed and assist with care.
“Is there anybody that’s willing to work with us to help the community?” Rocheleau asked.
While Swanton was not named for swans, the birds have been part of the town’s culture for decades, ever since Queen Elizabeth gifted the town with the original Sam and Betty in 1961.
Rocheleau said the birds, which spend the warmer months in a pond on the village green, are an attraction. People get a creemee at the stand across from the birds or a sandwich at a local shop, then come to the green and watch the birds, he said.
Video and photos of the birds taken by visitors from all over the country shows up online, according to Rocheleau.
People in the community also keep a close eye on the birds, alerting Rocheleau if they see someone mistreating Sam and Betty.
They also frequently ask why Sam limps. He has a bump on his right foot, which is genetic. It causes the limp. Sam and Betty’s veterinarian has advised that it’s best left alone, explained Washburn.
But it did get the swans a pond this winter. We “thought it was best to get him a pond so we can get him off his foot,” Rochealeau said.
The chamber owns the swans, but the town contributes $1,500 each year to their care. The swans eat a special feed recommended by their veterinarian, with Washburn bringing them some lettuce now and then.
Ideally, Washburn and Rocheleau said they would like to expand the swan’s enclosure within the green, making it large enough and deep enough for them to stay all winter. “That would be the best scenario for these birds,” Washburn said.
It’s also, both of the swans’ caretakers agreed, a goal for the future.