John Boy Walton, one of the celebrity swans of Prospect Park, has died — setting off a furious battle over whether it was murder … or something even worse!
An animal investigator says it was a classic case of swan-on-swan violence — but waterfowl lovers who visit the park’s lake every day say that John Boy was poisoned by a toxic ecosystem, the result of two weeks of mysterious macabre happenings along the lakefront.
“This poor creature was poisoned; it was not beaten by another swan — that is absurd!” said Ed Bahlman, who observes the swans daily, and has been at the vanguard of an ongoing tale of dead animals, chicken heads, entrails and arson that has kept park-goers riveted for two weeks.
“This swan was not murdered.”
But Bobby Horvath, the licensed wildlife rehabilitator who was called in on Friday to save the ailing bird, says it was likely a homicide.
“We suspect she was beaten up by other swans,” said Horvath, who treated John Boy at his Nassau County home during her final four days. “The bird had good bodyweight — but it had suffered some sort of [blunt] trauma.”
Trauma? Like a murder?
“She had swelling in one leg,” Horvath continud. “Couldn’t walk. The animal was dirty and looked like it was beaten up. This animal’s condition was consistent with other swans that have been beaten up by other adult swans.”
Horvath added that the bird was unresponsive during Horvath’s rehabilitation effort.
But his prognosis did little to silence the conspiracy theories from swan-lovers, who believe that John Boy succumbed to the putrid stew that resulted from dumping by the so-called “Butcher of Prospect Park.”
Several other animals — including a duck, an opossum and turtles — have also turned up dead along the lakefront. Some have been murdered, others might have died of other unnatural causes.
“Maybe the body parts poisoned the water,” said Susan Yuen, who first alerted the authorities to John Boy’s pitiful state. “I don’t know why these animals are dropping dead one by one.” Yuen first noticed John Boy had become unresponsive last Friday.
“Her legs were in an odd position. Her wings were kind of draped in the water,” said Yuen. “She took ill so fast. She should have an autopsy.”
That’s not going to happen — and not only because John Boy has already been cremated, said Horvath, who is also a firefighter who was involved in the eventual release of the coyote that stalked Manhattan last week.
“An animal has to be endangered or threatened for the state to want to test it — or it must be a victim of a crime,” he said. “In my opinion, it didn’t meet any of those criteria.”
Anticipating charges that he is merely part of a cover-up, Horvath added, “No one is telling me what to say. We’re not paid, we’re total volunteers, no one influences my decision or influences what I say.”
For now, all Bahlman and other bird-lovers can do is speculate — at least until the park comes forward with tests of the water in the lake.
Still, Horvath said that poison seemed unlikely.
“Unless the [entrails] have been tampered with, it shouldn’t harm the animals,” he said. “Their stomachs can handle it — and waterfowl don’t go after bones, flesh and chicken heads.”
Horvath said that there is something particularly sad about watching a large, elegant animal like a swan die — especially after having done everything in his power to prevent it.
On Friday, Horvath began a regimen of force feeding John Boy, plus treating her with heat and antibiotics — all to no avail. John Boy went to the big lake in the sky on Monday.
Horvath suggested that the weather, more than poison, is the likely culprit for the wave of animal deaths.
“All of a sudden the weather gets nice, then gets cold again — animals that are already weak or came out of hibernation too early — the weather will kill them,” Horvath said. “And as the weather improves, swans start preparing to nest [and become aggressive]. Its not uncommon, we get injured birds around this time of year.”
And despite Bahlman and others’ insistence, swan-on-swan violence has certainly stalked the lake. It was only last fall that the swans of Prospect Park first appeared in the headlines during a brutal swan war between the Honeybear and Monster clans.
That war appeared to have ended — until last week, perhaps.
Regardless of the cause of death, John Boy stands as the most high-profile animal to die in the midst of the mind-bending mystery that has baffled park officials for the last two weeks.
It all began with a bloody rock by the lake, which appeared to have been used as a chopping block.
Then, smashed turtle shells picked clean of flesh were discovered nearby.
Later, an entire swath of reeds were left a charred wasteland in what appeared to be an arson.
Next, a shocking pile of animal guts and chicken heads were left by the edge of the lake.
Then, the dead animals began appearing.