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Wanted: Names for baby swans at Woodlawn Memorial Park

Juliet swims with her baby swans Woodlawn Memorial Park. To celebrate birth baby swans — first 15 years — park

Juliet swims with her baby swans at Woodlawn Memorial Park. To celebrate the birth of the baby swans — the first in 15 years — the park is hosting a "Name the Baby Swans" contest. | Supplied photo

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‘Name the Baby Swans’ contest

When: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays through July 2; 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Woodlawn Memorial Park, 23060 W. Jefferson St., Joliet

Contact: 815-725-1152

Updated: July 26, 2013 6:08AM

Woodlawn Memorial Park in Joliet has two baby swans — the first swans hatched at the cemetery in 15 years — and staff wants your help in naming them.

From now until July 2, those interested can stop by the main office during regular office hours and submit suggestions. The winner will receive a gift card. Participants are encouraged to be creative, as it’s unknown whether these 3-week-old birds are boys or girls.

“You can’t tell until they are mature,” said Lynn Velasquez, family services cemetery assistant manager.

The parents, Romeo and Juliet, are the ninth set of swans the park has owned in the 35 years it has kept swans. Each pair is bought to inhabit Woodlawn’s lake to enhance the beauty of the grounds.

“When they swim, it’s just gorgeous,” Velasquez said. “It’s just like they’re out of a storybook.”

From October to April, the swans move to a boarding house, but they return once the weather warms up. Woodlawn keeps each pair about five to six years. The park acquired Romeo and Juliet four years ago.

Wildlife photographer John Sullivan of Crest Hill noticed Juliet nesting one day, alerted Velasquez and then brought Juliet some straw from the Plainfield farm where he works.

“It was right after the flood,” Sullivan said. “She laid an egg right on the grass because she had no nesting material. After I brought some straw for her, she laid eggs right on it. They lost a couple eggs from raccoons or something but it was still kind of neat.”

Velasquez said Juliet had laid four eggs, but 45 days later, Juliet only had two live birds. Velasquez is uncertain if the other two birds failed to hatch or, if they did hatch, simply did not survive.

Visitors, she said, are enjoying glimpses of the other two.

“They’re just as cute as can be,” Velasquez said.

Staff are seeking a veterinarian to clip the young swans’ wings. Not only is this procedure required by law, Velasquez said, but wing-clipping will prevent the swans from flying out into Jefferson Street traffic and becoming confused.

Woodlawn also will need to find a new home for the baby swans before fall, perhaps at a zoo or wildlife sanctuary. The boarder that accepts Romeo and Juliet each year already cares for 700 swans and has no room for additional ones.

Although swans mate for life, separating Romeo and Juliet from their children should not upset them, Velasquez said. Swan parents tend to “let go” of their offspring rather quickly once the little darlings become mature.

“They reach a certain age and they swim away,” Velasquez said.

The swans are not the only wildlife one may spot at the park. Many different forms of wildlife wander around Woodlawn, Velasquez said.

These include 14 wild turkey babies, baby geese, a red fox and a large buck at the Essington Road location and “beautiful deer” that venture from the woods at dusk, she said.

“Most of the general public doesn’t know how beautiful the cemetery is with all the wildlife,” Velasquez said.

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