"WHO'S MUTILATING PELICANS?" That was the all-caps question posed last week by Orange County's Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center after dozens of brown pelicans turned up along the Southern California coastline with serious injuries that appear to have been intentionally caused by a human. In a Facebook post about the "atrocious act," the center noted that more than 32 of the formerly endangered seabirds were found between Huntington Beach and San Clemente, with 22 of them since October showing compound fractures in their wings, meaning the breaks were so bad the bones were sticking out of their skin. "These are very serious injuries that require emergency surgeries and long-term care," per veterinarian Elizabeth Wood. The center added those operations and subsequent care could run $50,000 to $100,000 per bird—a protected species under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act—and it's now appealing for donations.
In a press conference last week, Wood noted the injuries in most of the hurt birds were so severe they couldn't be saved; the 22 pelicans with compound fractures all had to be euthanized. For one bird, the "bone was protruding through the skin, and the wing was actually twisted all the way around," Wood said, per CNN. This development follows a probe last year in which pelicans were found near California marinas with slashed pouches, leading to a $5,000 reward for information, per the Los Angeles Times. "If there is a person catching these pelicans and intentionally releasing them injured, how are they even catching them?" says Capt. Patrick Foy of the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife. "And ... what would be the motivation?" The center is offering a $500 reward for information; the public can call the CalTIP line at 888-334-2258. (Read more pelican stories.)