$5,500 reward offered for information on mutilated brown pelicans found on O.C. beaches

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This photo from May 19, 2021, shows a brown pelican who later died, and was one of more than 30 brown pelicans viciously attacked and mutilated along the Orange County coastline. (Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center)

This photo from May 19, 2021, shows a brown pelican who later died, and was one of more than 30 brown pelicans viciously attacked and mutilated along the Orange County coastline. (Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center)

A reward of $5,500 is being offered for information on whoever is responsible for the maiming of nearly three dozen brown pelicans found mutilated on the coast of Orange County, officials announced Wednesday.

Since October, at least 32 brown pelicans have been found with broken wings along the O.C. coastline, stretching from San Clemente to Huntington Beach. Most of the pelicans did not survive, and those who did needed emergency surgery and long-term care.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, a nationwide legal advocacy organization for animals, is offering $5,000 — in addition to an existing $500 reward — for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for attacking and mutilating the brown pelicans, according to a Wednesday news release.

Officials believe the injuries were inflicted purposefully, the Animal Legal Defense Fund said.

The Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center, a licensed veterinary hospital that caters specifically to wildlife, is providing rehabilitative care to the pelicans and is working closely with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to investigate the matter.  

“Someone is intentionally breaking Brown Pelican’s wings,” Debbie McGuire, executive director of the center, said in a statement. “We need your help to find whomever is performing this atrocious act.”

Of the rescued birds, 22 had severe compound fractures to the humerus bone, which is where the wing is located. A compound fracture is an open fracture where the bone is completely broken in half and the pieces are sticking through the skin, McGuire explained, adding that none of these birds survived.

The other 10 pelicans suffered different types of closed wing fractures, which are still serious but have a better prognosis.

Orthopedic surgery and care for the pelicans is costing thousands of dollars per bird, according to the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center. The organizations has set up a fund for care expenses, raising nearly $28,000 of their $150,000 goal as of Wednesday night.

“It’s extremely worrisome that these pelicans have been the victims of a nine-month onslaught with no end in sight,” Animal Legal Defense Fund executive director Stephen Wells said in a written statement. “Violence towards animals is a strong predictor of violence towards humans, meaning that these cruel attacks pose concerns for the safety of humans and animals alike. We’re hopeful that the local community will come forward with information to prevent further harm.”  

In California, the maximum penalty for maliciously and intentionally maiming or mutilating a living animal is a fine of up to $20,000 or up to three years imprisonment, or both, the Animal Legal Defense Fund reminded residents.

McGuire said during a new conference earlier this month that she couldn’t recall seeing broken wing injuries on this large a scale since 2008, when about a dozen pelicans were found at Bolsa Chica beach with broken wings. They came into the care center with compound fractures and only one survived. Tips eventually led to an arrest and conviction, she said.

If you have information related to the pelican attacks, contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife at 1-888-334-2258. Or, text “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847411 if you have any information. Include penal code 597 in the report. All tips will remain anonymous. 

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