Two national organizations — the Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust — are offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for slashing the throat pouches of 14 brown pelicans in South Florida, leaving 10 dead and another four injured.
This adds to existing rewards totaling $6,000 offered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and a local construction company. FWC is investigating the incidents, which occurred in January.
Over a period of a few weeks, the pelicans began turning up on Cudjoe Key and in areas from Sugarloaf Key to Big Pine Key. Officers believe the injuries were intentionally inflicted on the birds with a sharp knife. Slitting the throats of pelicans, who use their pouches to skim the water and collect fish, causes them to suffer agonizingly slow deaths from starvation.
Kate MacFall, Florida state director for The HSUS, said, “The particularly gruesome and malicious nature of the attacks on these pelicans, who pose no threat to anyone, is heartbreaking. Whoever is serially mutilating these animals must be caught and severely punished. We are so thankful to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for their determination to find those responsible.”
Pelicans have suffered from a rash of violence in Florida, including two other attacks in January. A local bird rescue found 18 pelicans near Jacksonville that were beaten and suffering from severely broken wings.
In a separate incident in Fort Lauderdale, a teenager faces criminal charges for allegedly torturing a pelican with vapor from an electronic cigarette and suffocating the bird to death. In 2013 and 2014, at least 10 pelicans were victims of throat-slashing.
Pesticides, trophy hunting and mass killing by fishermen decimated brown pelican populations in the early 1900s. While their century-long recovery effort is considered by many to be a major conservation success story, they still face serious threats from oil spills, habitat destruction, entanglement in fishing lines, and the disappearance of major food sources.
Brown pelicans were removed from the Endangered Species List in 2009 but remain protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act and as a State Species of Special Concern by Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule.
Harming a brown pelican is punishable by fines and jail time.
• Wildlife officials estimate that nationwide, tens of millions of animals are poached annually.
• It is estimated that only 1 percent to 5 percent of poached animals come to the attention of law enforcement.
• Poachers injure or kill wildlife anytime, anywhere and sometimes do so in particularly cruel ways. Wildlife officials report that poachers often commit other crimes as well.
• The HSUS and The Trust work with state and federal wildlife agencies to offer rewards of $5,000 for information leading to arrest and conviction of suspected poachers.