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11 pelicans found with wings broken at Bolsa Chica beach

September 19, 2008 |  3:07 pm

Pelican_at_bolsa_chica_ecological_r

Eleven pelicans have been found on Bolsa Chica State Beach in Huntington Beach this week with their wings intentionally broken, prompting an investigation by federal wildlife authorities and the offer of a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

The sole pelican to survive is being cared for at the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach, which put up the reward.

Ten of the birds were less than 1 year old and were probably feeding in the water; residents have reported seeing fishing boats close to shore in recent days, said Lisa Birkle, the center's assistant wildlife director.

"The birds targeted are new birds arriving from the Channel Islands," she said. "They are young and inexperienced and don't have a fear of humans. . . . Because they're so hungry, they'll go right up to people."

With ocean temperatures around 70 degrees, small fish that would normally provide food for the birds near the water's surface have submerged deeper in search of cooler water.

Nine pelicans were found Monday by a Bolsa Chica lifeguard. The two others were found near the same lifeguard tower in subsequent days. Birkle said the injuries were consistent.

"Someone is snapping the wings backward," she said.

Because the pelicans were found wet with sand packed into their exposed wounds, it is suspected that they were injured in the water and dragged themselves up on shore.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the incidents, Birkle said.

-- Mike Anton

Photo: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

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