LONGBOAT KEY, Fla. - At the Bay Isles community and the Longboat Key Club Golf Course, swans are looked at as beautiful creatures. The animals are kind of like the area's mascot.
"The folks on the island take a lot of pride in them," said David Novak, who looks after the swans. "One of the most treasured moments is when you bring your kids or grandchildren down here and you can show them the wild swans."
Those moments could disappear, all thanks to a river mammal.
"The surprise is that no one, including all of the nature lovers, had ever seen one before on the island," said Novak.
River otters are being blamed for the deaths of several baby swans at Bay Isles. Jane Matson, a resident there, spotted three otters stalking a nest belonging to a beloved swan in the community named "Beverly."
"I was very upset," said Matson. "We look forward to this every year. We want every hatchling to get to the water and every hatchling to survive."
Damen Hurd of Wildlife Incorporated, says river otters may appear cute and cuddly, but can cause serious damage to aquatic life, and yes, swans.
"They are pretty much going to take advantage of any situation when they can eat," said Hurd. They will occasionally eat ducks, especially the younger ducks, geese, and things like that. It's not out of the question that they would have eaten swans," said Hurd.
River otters are generally not a threat to humans, but can bite if a person tries to pick one up.
According to Novak, the Bay Isles homeowner's association is looking into hiring a trapper to humanely remove the otters and relocate them.