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California Pelican with Slashed Throat Pouch Rescued, Culprit Wanted

Apr 22, 2014 04:54 PM EDT

The International Bird Rescue said Monday that it is offering $2,500 for information on whoever is responsible for slashing the throat pouch of a California pelican.

Long Beach Animal Care Services reportedly found the weak and malnourished bird Wednesday along Ocean Boulevard on the Alamitos Peninsula near Bayshore Park.

With its flappy appendage gashed open, an important dipping net for catching food, it is likely the brown pelican had not eaten for days, said Jay Holcomb of International Bird Rescue, the organization that is treating the bird.

And the tragic laceration doesn't appear to be an accident.

"Whoever handles [a pelican] would have to be very strong" to hold the bird down, Holcomb told the Los Angeles Times. "That means they wanted to hurt an innocent animal, and that's completely unacceptable."

Holcomb adds that a knife or similar sharp instrument was more likely used to cut the bird.

Rescuers have stapled the bird's pouch shut for now, allowing it to eat and gain its strength. The pelican will require surgery in order to fully heal, but only once it has showed increased improvements. Surgery will likely be scheduled as soon as later this week or early next week, once the pelican stabilizes, Holcomb said. There is a 50-50 chance that the bird will make a full recovery, according to the Daily Breeze.

The brown pelican, also called the common pelican, was one of the first species to be listed as endangered, largely due to widespread slaughter by fisherman. Since then, these creatures have started to flourish once again, and were removed from that list in 2009. Still, federal law makes it illegal to kill or harm migratory birds, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"Pelicans are of no threat to anyone, yet they continue to be mutilated and even killed by people who see them as competition for fish," Holcomb said in a statement. "The truth is a pelican's diet is mostly anchovies and sardines, fish that are used as bait by people who fish for sport."

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