Pelicans shot to death over weekend?
SAM WOLFE email@example.com
Kelly Donaldson, a veterinarian at the Highlands Animal Hospital in Sebastian, displays the injured left wing of a brown pelican found Wednesday on a spoil island near the 1600 block of Indian River Drive in Sebastian.
By TONY JUDNICH
December 21, 2006
SEBASTIAN — City Marine Officer Tom Poore made a sad discovery on an Indian River Lagoon spoil island Wednesday afternoon: Eleven pelicans, nine of them dead and two injured.
Poore also found shotgun shells — what he called "duck shot or bird shot" — on the island, just north of Squid Lips Restaurant and Marina, 1660 Indian River Drive. He said many of the birds apparently were shot to death.
"I think (they were shot), because I've never seen that many pelicans on an island like that, and all the shotgun shells I found," he said.
Poore brought the two surviving pelicans — young adult, native Florida brown pelicans — to Highlands Animal Hospital on County Road 512. Veterinarians saved one of the birds but had to put the other to sleep.
The euthanized pelican had ingested a fishing hook and had a severe infection, veterinarian Kelly Donaldson said. She said X-rays of this bird did not reveal any gunshot.
The lone surviving bird has a wound the size of a quarter on its left wing. Donaldson said she and other veterinarians treated its infection with antibiotics and wildlife rehabilitation experts in South Brevard County would pick up the pelican to give it further care.
Veterinarians didn't find any gunshot in the surviving bird, but are not ruling out it might have been shot, she said. Donaldson said this pelican probably could fly but is too weak.
"He can get around pretty well," Donaldson said. "None of his wings are broken. He should be fine once he gets over the infection. (Injured pelicans) can recover pretty quickly."
Late Friday, some local residents reported hearing what sounded like numerous gunshots near the island where Poore found the birds on Wednesday.
Bob Richardson, who has lived north of Squid Lips for almost three years, said he heard shots near the island Friday night, Saturday morning and afternoon and Sunday morning.
"I heard seven or eight good pops (Friday night)," Richardson said Wednesday. "I figured firecrackers, but then there was another 20 to 25 shots. They were just pounding them out. They were hunting, you could tell."
He said he didn't hear as many shots fired on Saturday, but those fired Sunday morning woke up him and his fianc'ée, Betsy Valorose.
"It scared her half to death," Richardson said.
He said he called 911 after hearing the shots Friday night. Richardson said the dispatcher he talked to told him it was duck-hunting season.
Richardson said he had looked out at the island Friday and saw a white boat, about 17 feet long, and a camouflaged boat, near the island.
"One man was out of the boat, about 10 minutes after all the shooting," he said.
Poore said bird shooting isn't allowed on the island.
According to federal law, the American white pelican and the brown pelican are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which makes it unlawful to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill or sell the birds.
He said the island is in the county's jurisdiction and Sebastian Police did not respond to the reports of gunshots last weekend. But Sheriff's Office spokesman Deputy Jeff Luther on Wednesday said the Sheriff's Office also did not respond to the area.
Poore said he reported the dead birds to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The federal agency might send someone to the island today to inspect the dead birds.
Joy Hill, spokeswoman for the conservation commission, said her agency also would investigate the matter.
Sebastian bills itself as "the home of Pelican Island." The Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is in the lagoon and a few miles south of the city.
And Richardson said he and his fianc'ée love pelicans.
"It just blows my mind people were shooting pelicans like that," he said.
• Anyone who sees sick, injured or dead wildlife or would like to report a wildlife violation should call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Wildlife Alert at (888) 404-3922.
• Along with the American white pelican, the brown pelican is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which makes it unlawful to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill or sell the birds.