Authorities in California are looking for a suspected human culprit behind attacks on more than two dozen brown pelicans who have been found seriously injured in the south of the state.
In an alert issued last week, the Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center in Orange county said 32 of the slow-flying water birds have been found between San Clemente and Huntington Beach, with all but 10 showing compound fractures to their wings.
“Someone is intentionally breaking Brown Pelican’s wings,” the center said in a statement on Facebook. “We need your help to find whomever is performing this atrocious act. Be OUR eyes and ears.”
At a press conference Wednesday, veterinarian Elizabeth Wood said the injuries are “very serious injuries that require emergency surgeries and long-term care.” One bird, CNN reported, had been taken to emergency surgery. “Bone was protruding through the skin, and the wing was actually twisted all the way around,” Wood said.
Reports of deliberately injured pelicans began trickling in to California Department of Fish and Wildlife late last year, triggering an investigation and a $5,000 reward for information.
But since October, the Wetlands & Wildlife center has received 22 pelicans with severe wing fractures. All have been euthanized. Around 10 birds with less severe injuries are being treated. The center has appealed for donations.
A spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife’s law enforcement division told the Los Angeles Times that it had expanded its investigation to include 100 miles of shoreline from Orange to Ventura counties.
“At this point we don’t have any suspects, we don’t have witnesses, we don’t have evidence other than the injured birds,” the department’s Captain Patrick Foy told the paper.
“If there is a person catching these pelicans and intentionally releasing them injured, how are they even catching them?… And from there, what would be the motivation of a person that has injured the birds?”
There are estimated to be 150,000 to 200,000 California brown pelicans, which are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Officials also say that the state has a periodic history of attacks on pelicans.