We’re Not Sure Who Would Do This to a Pelican, But They Need to Be Caught Now

Last month, a concerned person alerted local Long Beach animal authorities about a brown pelican that was acting peculiar. The bird appeared to be in distress and was just “flopping” around. When authorities arrived, they found a bird that was obviously cold and painfully skinny. The bird’s size and other signs indicated that the brown pelican was malnourished. Unfortunately, malnourishment wasn’t the worst of this brown pelican’s troubles.

The bird had a huge slash on its pouch that cut through two layers of its elastic skin. The pattern of the injury wasn’t consistent with a bird that accidentally got caught on a fishing line or hook. At least one person had to probably use a lot of force to hold down the bird and cut through its pouch. The brown pelican was in so much pain that she couldn’t self-feed and she would’ve surely died a slow and painful death without intervention.

Fortunately, the brown pelican was eventually transferred to International Bird Rescue (IBR), and IBR is doing its part to care for the bird. But IBR can’t do everything on its own, and the organization is asking for your help, Care2 Members, in helping this innocent bird get justice.

Inflicting Pelican Pain on Purpose

As reported in the Los Angeles Times, Andrew Harmon, the spokesperson for IBR, expressed that while it’s hard to tell if more than one person was involved, the pelican’s injury lines up with other human-induced injuries. Sadly, as Harmon explains, “It would take potentially a lot of strength to hold that bird down.” This means that at least one person went through the trouble of forcefully holding down the bird (that can weigh up to 12 pounds and have a wingspan of  8.2 feet) just to inflict pain.

Surgery is this pelican’s only chance at freedom. In the meantime, the team at International Bird Rescue have put staples on the laceration in order for the bird to start self-feeding.

Slashing the “Competition”

As reported in International Bird Rescue, Jay Holcomb, the director of IBR, explained that while pelicans are in no way “competition” for the fishermen, the fishermen still perceive them as such. While we’d like to believe that this brown pelican’s brutal attack is a rare and isolated event, many fishermen take it a step further by maliciously mutilating and, sometimes, killing innocent pelicans because they think that the pelicans are competing for the same fish sources. In reality, Holcomb shares how the pelicans aren’t “competition” because they aren’t after the fishermen’s fish. The pelicans are after the fishermen’s bait, namely anchovies and sardines.

Pelicans Know How to Bounce Back

While the California Brown Pelican hasn’t always had it easy, it knows how to make a comeback. Its recovery is one of the finest examples of the Endangered Species Act (both at the federal level and California state level). Legal protection from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act also helped the bird’s population recuperate from the devastating DDT pesticide consequences. According to Pelican Life, thanks to the DDT pesticide, “In 1969, 750 nests were found but only four hatchlings. In 1970, there was only one chick.”

Even though pelicans face natural and not-so natural dangers, human cruelty is a danger they face too often. According to the Pelican Rescue Team (PRT), they have seen pelican injuries like “broken/twisted bills, sliced or sliced-off pouches, broken wings and legs…and much worse.” PRT helped ‘Ellie the Pelly’ make a comeback after a human had intentionally broken her bill. While euthanasia seemed the only resort, Ellie got a second chance. A complicated surgery that required the realigning of her bill saved Ellie’s life. After she recuperated, Ellie got to fly back home like nothing had happened.

Thanks to GoPro camera technology, we actually got to see how Tanzania’s ‘Bigbird,’ another injured and abandoned pelican, relearned how to spread his wings and fly again — and it’s pretty epic. Let’s hope that we’ll see the Long Beach Brown Pelican soaring in the skies again soon.

Help This Pelican Get Justice

As of April 23, 2014, thanks to the generosity of individual donors and The Animal Legal Defense Fund, a $7,500 reward is being offered in exchange for information on this vicious and unnecessary pelican attack. There’s no excuse for leaving a pelican with its pouch hanging from her neck. If found and convicted, the perpetrator could pay a hefty fine of up to $15,000 and spend up to 6 months in a federal prison. If you have any information, then please alert the International Bird Rescue and the authorities. This pelican deserves justice.

Photo Credit: Beedie Savage


Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Sandy G.
Sandy G3 years ago

From what I could ascertain from this article, it seems that fishermen believe these birds are cutting into their livelihoods by eating the sardines for which they fish. I can't imagine the birds eating enough sardines to make a fraction of a dent in what the fishermen catch. Once again I see man destroying and harming nature because he can't believe he can live alongside nature peacefully and without feeling threatened. So once again I realize the problem boils down to us: there are just too many of us. When will we wake up and realized the source of every single serious problem on this planet is the numbers of humans who kill, destroy, deplete, steal, rape, encroach, poison, hoard, and overbreed beyond what nature can sustain? WE are the cancer of this planet. And we will be the death of it. We disgust me.

william Miller
william Miller3 years ago

how sick

Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson3 years ago

Pelicans have a sharp curved upper beak like a carrion am not sure about the feet. All pictures make it look sharp and strong. The person doing this has got to be skilled so as not to become injured himself. Look for an old mean sod.

Mary Cromley
.3 years ago

I hope that authorities find the sadistic sub-human POS who did this. He needs to be exterminated.

Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe3 years ago

If I knew who did this, I would turn them in yesterday!! They would not have to give me the reward. My reward would be seeing the creep put in prison with a hefty fine for what they did to this poor pelican!!

Muriel Servaege
Muriel Servaege3 years ago

No doubt this pelican should get justice.

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla3 years ago

Shame on the people who did this! Petition already signed

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

Humans are cruel; especially fishermen.