NEWPORT BEACH, Calif.—Two young Brown Pelicans were released at Crystal Cove State Beach June 22 after being treated for injuries believed to have been inflicted by people.
The birds were previously under the care of wildlife specialists at the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center of Orange County in Huntington Beach. They were among dozens of pelicans discovered along the coast with serious injuries, including compound fractures to their wing bones.
The injured pelicans were all brought to the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center by fish and wildlife officers and lifeguards as far south as San Clemente. Less than a dozen of the pelicans survived their injuries, including the two released.
A small crowd gathered at the release site as the pelicans in covered cages were carried down the beach by wildlife center staff for the release.
“It was an unforgettable experience to witness these two magnificent birds who were rescued, rehabilitated, and now released,” said Laure McCubbin from Las Vegas, who is visiting nearby relatives. McCubbin brought her 9-year-old son, Mark, down to the beach to witness the pelicans’ release.
“I’ve always been interested in wildlife, especially because I want to be a marine biologist when I grow up,” said the younger McCubbin. “Seeing these pelicans being released back into the wild was such a great experience. I’m glad they are OK.”
One of the released pelicans, about 1 or 2 years old, was originally rescued in late April at Crystal Cove after being observed staying in one spot of the beach for several days.
Upon initial exam by wildlife experts, the pelican had low body temperature, broken and bloody wing feathers, and a slight wing droop.
A small pinpoint wound on the shoulder was thought to have been from a fishing hook injury.
The bird was treated for dehydration, wound infection, and a shoulder injury and received two months of physical therapy to get to the point of being released.
The second 1-year-old was found nearby on May 13 sitting on the beach, suffering from severe dehydration and hypothermia. It had a similar abnormal pupil response as the other bird and was ridden with parasites. The bird received emergency care and IV fluids, which stabilized its critical condition, allowing for its return to the same beach where it was found.
“This is such an unusual situation that our board and supporters felt compelled to establish a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons intentionally hurting these pelicans,” Debbie McGuire, executive director of the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center, told The Epoch Times.
The organization is a nonprofit that relies on donations to meet its mission of rehabilitating and releasing sick, injured, oiled, and orphaned native wildlife, some of which are threatened or endangered species.
McGuire said the cost of each injured pelican brought to the center is upwards of $5,000.
California Fish and Wildlife has been getting tips about the mysterious injuries and is currently investigating. Anyone with information or that is witness to suspicious activity regarding injured pelicans is encouraged to call the CalTIP hotline at 888-334-2258.