32 pelicans mutilated in California: ‘Someone is intentionally breaking’ wings, group says

A Southern California wildlife organization is searching for answers after more than 30 pelicans have been attacked and mutilated alongside the state’s coast.

The Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center, a nonprofit group that works with injured wildlife in Orange County, said on Monday that 32 brown pelicans have been significantly injured between the cities of Huntington Beach and San Clemente since March. Of the injured pelicans, 22 have suffered compound fractures to their wings. Only 10 have survived, according to the New York Times.

But the organization believe someone, or some people, are behind these attacks.

“Someone is intentionally breaking brown pelican’s wings,” they said in a statement on Monday. “We need your help to find whomever is performing this atrocious act.”

A brown pelican after receiving surgery for a broken wing. (Photo: Coutesy: Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center.)

Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center has begun to work alongside state wildlife officials and law enforcement to figure out who is behind the attacks. Debbie McGuire, executive director of the organization, told USA TODAY a $500 reward is being offered in hopes of making an arrest.

“This isn’t something you can hide,” Debbie Wayns of Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center told the New York Times. “The type of damage that’s happening with these pelicans, someone is brutally hurting these animals.”

The organization is also asking for donations to help pay for surgeries and care for the pelicans. McGuire said that surgery can cost roughly $5,000 and thousands more in rehabilitation. 

“These are very serious injuries that require emergency surgeries and long term care,” veterinarian Dr. Elizabeth Wood said. 

The brown pelican was once an endangered species in the state in the 1970s, according to the National Park Service. The birds had made a comeback since, but they still remain a protected species in the state. 

McGuire added that this isn’t the first time in the state’s history pelicans have been attacked. Eleven pelicans were found with broken or twisted wings at Bolsa Chica State Beach in September 2008, with only one of them surviving the attacks. In December 2020, four pelicans were found with their throats slashed in Marina del Rey and Ventura Harbor.

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