Swans have long held sway in Manlius, an upstate New York village where the web-footed creatures have lived for more than a century. Residents had particular affection for Faye, a white long-necked bird who, for more than a decade, had been a fixture at a fenced-in pond owned by the village.
And so people reacted with shock this week when the authorities announced that over the weekend three teenagers had stolen Faye in the middle of the night, killed her and then eaten her.
“They prepared a feast,” Sgt. Ken Hatter of the Manlius Police Department said the teenagers had told the police. They “did not have any idea of the significance of the swans had on this community,” or that the swans are owned by the village, the sergeant said.
“They believed that it was just a very large duck,” he said. “They did not know it was a swan, and they did not know it was not a wild animal.”
Officials said that just after midnight on Saturday, the teenagers hopped over a fence encircling Goose Lake Park. Faye was nesting by Manlius Swan Pond at the time. Two of the teenagers held her down to capture her, and then the three killed her, Sergeant Hatter said. The teenagers also stole four live cygnets, or baby swans, leaving Manny, Faye’s longtime mate, behind.
The three then took the birds to the home of one of the teenagers’ relatives, where, the police said, the swan was prepared and eaten with family and friends.
After the swans were reported missing on Monday, Capt. Tina Stanton of the Manlius Police Department said, tips from local residents led them to the four cygnets, which are alive, and later to the three teenagers.
The teenagers, Eman Hussen, 18, of Syracuse, and two others, whose names were not shared because they are minors, were charged with felony counts of grand larceny and criminal mischief. They were also charged with misdemeanor counts of conspiracy of theft and criminal trespassing.
The younger teenagers, who are 16 and 17, were to be arraigned on Thursday. Mr. Hussen is set to appear in court on June 15.
It was unclear whether the teenagers had lawyers.
Mr. Hussen did not address questions from reporters when he was arrested on Tuesday, and appeared to smile as he was being led to a police vehicle in handcuffs.
The news of Faye’s killing shook residents in Manlius, a village of about 4,000 people southeast of Syracuse, N.Y., where swans have been living since 1905. Residents have a deep appreciation for the swans, regularly stopping by to see Faye, who was 16 years old and was donated to the village in 2010, Sergeant Hatter said. She had been living by the pond with Manny, her mate, for over a decade.
“They’ve been ours forever,” Mayor Paul Whorrall said, noting that swans had become part of the fabric of Manlius. “If you drive through the village, you’ll see the swan emblems and signs and banners everywhere.”
Mute swans like Faye are not native to the United States, and were brought to the country from Europe in the late 1800s, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. There are about 2,000 mute swans in New York, according to the department. Hunting swans is legal in some states, but in New York they are considered an invasive species and can be owned only with a permit, according to the agency.
Sergeant Hatter said that Manlius was one of the few entities in New York State with a permit that allows it to house, breed, maintain and own mute swans.
It was unclear why the teenagers decided to eat Faye.
“It wasn’t because they were lacking in food,” Sergeant Hatter said. “They were hunting.”
The celebrity chef Mario Batali told Esquire in 2011 that he had once eaten a swan and said “it was delicious,” describing the meat as “deep red, lean, lightly gamy, moist and succulent.”
After the teenagers learned about the significance of the swans from the police, Sergeant Hatter said, they appeared to have “reflected on that and realized that it was wrong.”
He said that the teenagers had told the police that they had planned to keep two of the cygnets to raise them and keep them as pets.
All four cygnets were turned over to a biologist who has a contract with the village to care for them, Mr. Whorrall said, adding that it would take about six weeks for the cygnets to be healthy enough to return to the pond.
At that point, Mr. Whorrall said, Manny will most likely be removed from the pond out of concern that he could be combative to the cygnets after losing his mate.
“They do mate forever,” Mr. Whorrall said of swans. “You don’t know what Manny will do to the cygnets.”
Manlius officials hope that two of the cygnets will mate and extend the village’s long tradition of having swans at the pond, Mr. Whorrall said.
“The public needs to know that this is not ending,” he said. “We will continue to have swans, and hopefully, at some point, get back to normal.”
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