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Brown pelican with slashed pouch being treated in San Pedro




A California brown pelican with a severed pouch — thought to be caused by an act of human cruelty —  is expected to recover after being handed off to the International Bird Rescue in San Pedro earlier this week.

The 3-year-old female pelican was spotted on Sunday, March 10, by a crew member of the Truline, a sport fishing boat docked at the 22nd Street Landing. The pelican landed on the rail of the adjacent boat, the Native Sun.

“It looked like something was wrong,” Truline crew member Loryn Murakami said. “I gave it a fish and it just went right through (the pouch). I thought, ‘Oh, that is so messed up.’”

Murakami first called the Mammal Care Center in San Pedro, where sick sea lions are taken, and the staff there told her to call the International Bird Rescue, a facility next door and also within Angels Gate Park.

She managed to capture the pelican on the deck and put it into an open ice chest for the ride to the center.

There was some fussing from the bird once it was captured, Murakami said.

“Luckily,” she added, “it wasn’t a long drive.”

On Monday, the pelican — nicknamed “Blue” —  went in for a lengthy surgery that required more than 400 stitches to repair the pouch, which was separated from one end to the other and hanging loose.

The bird is expected to undergo a second surgery and will be at the center recovering for several weeks.

It’s not the first time this kind of injury has been spotted and treated.

“I wish we weren’t handling another terrible case like this,” said Bird Rescue CEO JD Bergeron, “but the pelican is in the best possible spot, with an experienced veterinary team who will make all the difference in her recovery.”

The center, Bergeron added, is “grateful to members of the public for noticing her struggle and acting quickly to get her into care.”

Captain Patrick Foy, of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Law Enforcement Division, said the department received a call from the center on Monday, March 11, and will be investigating.

The incident took rescuers back to another pelican, called “Pink,” that had its pouch slashed in April 2014. Pink, found in Long Beach and also treated by the San Pedro center, survived and was banded and released into the wild, where the pelican continues to be spotted from time to time, said Russ Curtis, who handles communications for the bird rescue centers, which have responded to more than 250 oil spills and various wildlife emergencies on six continents. The crisis response centers are in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Anchorage.

Several similar injuries have been spotted on pelicans over the years in Marina Del Rey and Ventura Harbor, as well as in San Pedro, the center’s veterinarian, Rebecca Duerr, said in a video clip. The clustering of the cases, she said, makes them suspicious.

The incidents have actually spanned an area from Ventura to Dana Point over the past five years or so, Foy said. No arrests have been made and wildlife officials ask the public to call 888-334-2258 if they see someone trying to harm the birds and then setting them free.

“We’ve never been able to find a witness,” Foy said in a telephone interview. “Something’s happening to them, there’s no question about it.”

The injuries “must be horrible” for the generally much-loved waterbirds to experience, he added.

Pelican pouches can be injured by fishing lines or other unintentional causes, usually resulting in holes in the pouch.

But Blue’s pouch was severed from the base to the tip on both sides.

Because of the nature of the large and precise cut that went all the way to the back of the animal’s head on both sides, the center’s news release said, “There is strong evidence this was caused by a human.”

Both Pink and Blue were named for the temporary ID bands they were given when treatment began.

A pelican’s pouch is integral to the bird’s ability to eat and stay hydrated.

International Bird Rescue, founded in 1971, is a nonprofit wildlife organization that relies on public support to help fund the care of injured, sick and orphaned waterbirds. Donations can be made at

Source: Orange County Register

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