Charter boat captain Jim Sharpe was on his dock on Summerland Key, Fla. last Friday when he noticed a brown pelican with its throat slit, making it almost impossible for it to swallow fish.
“It looked like the pelican’s throat had been cut with a knife,” he told the Miami Herald.
A 10-inch clean slit reached from the point of the bird’s beak, all the way back to the glottis.
“The windpipe was dangling from the bird’s neck, almost like it was breathing out of a snorkel,” Veterinarian Don Harris, director of the Avian & Exotic Animal Medical Center in Miami, told the Herald.
Several more brown pelicans have been turning up in the area with the same injury, and Maya Totman, director of the Florida Keys Wildlife Rescue, said she fears there’s a person or group of people out there doing this to innocent animals.
“We’ve seen a lot of ripped pouches, but never anything like this,” she said.
Harris agreed that the cuts on the pelican brought in by Sharpe appeared to be intentional.
“I firmly believe it to be malicious,” he told the paper, even likening the lacerations to “a Colombian necktie” — in reference to a method of murder that began during the Colombian civil war.
Totman said she found one dead pelican and four others with their throats slit on Cudjoe Key on Sunday.
“If we don’t catch them soon they are going to die from starvation a terrible death,” she said. “This is so sad. So sad.”
The brown pelican is federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. It’s also on Florida’s protected list as a species of special concern, the Herald reported.
“They can be aggravating and try to grab your fish if you are fishing out of a boat,” Harris said. “But I can’t imagine anybody deliberately maiming them, even though they can be a nuisance.”