The Animal Legal Defense Fund Tuesday announced it has increased the reward to $25,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect in apparent attacks against pelicans.
The organization has added $20,000 to an existing $5,000 reward. Two more dead birds have been found since the initial reward was announced, executive director Stephen Wells said.
The organization said 34 brown pelicans have been found with broken wings since October from San Clemente to Huntington Beach.
Most of the wounded pelicans do not survive and the ones that did required surgery and extensive care.
“This infusion of funds added to our initial reward reflects the severity of harm to the pelicans found mutilated in Orange County and mounting pressure to find answers,” Wells said.
“We are hopeful that the local community will come forward with information in order to prevent further harm to these animals.”
The Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach began treating pelicans with broken wings in late October, but there has been “an uptick since March,” executive director Debbie McGuire said last month.
McGuire said then that 32 pelicans have been brought in with injuries, and 22 of them had compound fractures.
In some cases, “the bone is completely broken in half and protrudes through the skin,” McGuire said, adding that the injuries leave the pelicans vulnerable to infection.
The injured pelicans have been found in areas including Dana Point, San Clemente, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, basically the entire Orange County coast, McGuire said.
Treating the pelicans can cost at least $5,000 apiece, so the Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center is also seeking donations. Money can be donated at snwbl.it/hjy16v.
Anyone with information was asked to call the state Department of Fish and Wildlife toll-free tip line at 888-334-2258. The public may also text “CALTIP” followed by a space and the message to 8474111 (tip411).
Capt. Patrick Foy of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife law enforcement division said last month the Huntington Beach wildlife care center and the International Bird Rescue organization have both concluded that the injuries are consistent with being human-caused.
“Unfortunately, we have no suspects and not many tips,” Foy said. “And essentially no other evidence other than the injured birds themselves and expert opinions from these two organizations that the injuries are human caused.”
“It’s a very large puzzle to put together,” he said.
Foy said in June that he was still not certain that the birds are the victims of human attackers, noting the difficulty of capturing a pelican just to harm them.