An investigation is underway into why so many birds in a Florida Panhandle town have turned up with broken wings.
More than 20 adolescent pelicans have been found in Panacea with broken wings over the past two weeks, according to news reports. While broken wings themselves are common, the number of birds suffering the injury has raised eyebrows.
Officials became even more alarmed after learning that many of the birds had suffered the same injury, a wing broken to the point where bone was exposed.
“The numbers don’t add up. You don’t have 12 pelicans with the same injury without somebody doing something,” Panacea Gulf Specimen Marine Lab Managing Director Cyprus Rudloe told a Tallahasse newspaper.
The number of injured birds has dropped after increased publicity of the injuries, and Rudloe hopes the attention will help deter whoever may be responsible.
The Florida Wild Mammal Association has spent recent weeks patrolling the Panacea coastline and collecting the injured pelicans. Broken wings can be fatal to pelicans because the injury renders them unable to fly, hunt and eat. Despite the FWMA’s efforts, several pelicans have already died as a result of the injuries.
“This is beginning to appear intentional. They appear to have been grabbed by the wings and smashed, snapping the humerus or joints in the elbow,” the FWMA wrote in a Facebook post.
Injuring pelicans, a protected animal under the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act, is a crime and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is looking into the incident.