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Reward Offered for Info in Shooting of Brown Pelican

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Brown pelican | Photo: Lucina M./Flickr/Creative Commons License

Someone shot a pelican in Southern California recently, and a bird rehab organization is offering $5,000 for information that leads to the shooter's arrest and conviction.

According to the International Bird Rescue, an injured male brown pelican that could not fly was captured in Redondo Beach March 12. Redondo Beach Animal Control brought the pelican to International Bird Rescue, where staff determined via X-ray that a bullet had shattered its ulna.

International Bird Rescue veterinary staff operated to repair the fracture and clean shrapnel from the wound, but though vets are guardedly optimistic, the bird's survival is by no means certain. Injuring brown pelicans is a violation of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, with fines of up to $2,000 and two years' imprisonment possible for a single offense.

 

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No motive for the shooting is known, and likely won't be until a perp is identified. There have been infrequent attacks on California's brown pelicans over the decades pinned on misguided anglers who blame the birds for "taking" fish.

Removed from protection under the Endangered Species Act in 2009, the brown pelican has spent the last few decades recovering from near-extinction due to the deleterious effects of the pesticide DDT on its nesting success. DDT interferes with birds' ability to metabolize calcium. That meant that birds with chronic exposure to DDT laid eggs with thinner shells, many of which broke during nesting. A domestic ban on agricultural use of DDT is credited as a major contributor to the species' slow recovery since.

Most of the problems brown pelicans now face in California are connected to human interference in their habitat rather than direct injury, though some pelicans are injured each year by fishing tackle. In an unexplained spate of attacks in Southern California and the Bay Area in 2003, more than 20 brown pelicans were brought into California wildlife hospitals with injuries ranging from gunshot woulds to deliberate mutilation. Similar "outbreaks" of violence against pelicans have happened throughout the years in California. In 2002, 14 people were charged with misdemeanor violations of the state Fish and Game Code after some fishing party boat captains were alleged to have been injuring pelicans that went after baited hooks.

And just last year, a pelican whose pouch had been slashed in the Long Beach Area prompted International Bird Rescue to offer what eventually amounted to a $20,000 reward for information leading to a conviction. That story, at least, had a happy ending.

Individuals with information on a possible shooter should get in touch with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal agency charged with enforcing the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, at (310) 328-1516.

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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