Over the past several weeks, over 25 pelicans have been found dead on North Topsail Beach in North Carolina. Examination of the birds revealed a variety of injuries that appear to have been intentionally inflicted by humans. Some of the birds had been shot, some had their wingtips smashed, some had their pouches slit, and others had the tendons of their wings severed. Even the birds that survived the initial attacks often had to be euthanized because the nature of their injuries would make survival in the wild impossible.
Officials from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission speculate that the birds are being injured and killed on boats in international waters and then tossed overboard. Pelicans will approach fishing vessels quite closely seeking food and can be readily caught by boaters bent on harming the birds. While pelicans are protected by federal law, there is little officials can do in this instance without an eyewitness account of how the birds were injured.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators.
While this story is unsettling and quite sad, it is not uncommon. Birds like gulls and cormorants are targets of abuse as well, and your SEANET blogger has seen and treated numerous seabirds that had suffered gunshot wounds, and one that had been shot through the wing with an arrow. Why these birds seem to engender such inhumane abuse is beyond my poor powers of imagination, but we hope against hope that those responsible for these attacks on the pelicans will be identified and prosecuted.