Originally posted at 3:25 p.m. April 23, 2014. Edited with new details.
A California brown pelican suffering from a slit jaw pouch, preventing it from eating in the wild, could take months to recover due to the scope of the wound, a wildlife rescuer said today.
The reward for information leading to whoever cut the pelican found in the 5400 block of Ocean Boulevard near Bayshore Park in Long Beach April 16 had grown from an initial $2,500 to $7,500 by Wednesday afternoon, according to the International Bird Rescue.
"It's always very heart-wrenching to see these types of injuries," said Julie Skoglund, operations manager at the International Bird Rescue, "I mean, something this severe where we believe it was intentionally caused and to see an animal come in like this that is basically going to starve to death without human intervention."
The slit has been stapled shut to enable the bird to feed itself. The female bird has to gain some weight before it can undergo the two to three surgeries needed to stitch the pouch up.
The surgeries will take place over several days, with the first one expected to take 10 to 15 hours, Skoglund said.
"Pouch surgeries typically can last a very long time, especially one this involved," Skoglund said.
The recovery could take months due to the size of the slit, which rescuers believe was done intentionally. The surgery could cost thousands of dollars, according to International Bird Rescue.
"The entire pouch was actually hanging down on its neck and was even obstructing its ability to breathe slightly," Skoglund said. "She was in pretty poor shape when she came in."
Pelicans dive on their fish and scoop them up in their pouch, which the injured bird can now do in an outdoor pool at the facility with other pelicans, thanks to the temporary staples, she said.
California brown pelicans were recently removed from the endangered species list but remain a threatened species protected under the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
"It doesn't mean they are still completely out of the woods," Skoglund said. "There is still ongoing research that needs to be done to monitor their populations. We want them to continue to be a symbol of California."
DDT dumped into Santa Monica Bay adversely affected Southern California populations, starting in the 1950s, but local pelican populations now appear to be making a comeback. They feed primarily on anchovies and sardines.
The IBR initially announced a $2,500 reward for information leading to the person who attacked the pelican. The Animal Legal Defense Fund later doubled the reward to $5,000.
Andrew Harmon, communications director for the International Bird Rescue, said he often encounters the birds, which he called majestic.
"I can't really get inside the mind of somebody who decided that this was a good idea," Harmon said.
Anyone with information on who may have harmed the pelican was asked to call the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at (310) 328-1516.
--City News Service