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Pelican Killings Puzzle L.A. Officials

January 15, 2003

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ At least 20 California brown pelicans have been shot or mangled in the past month, puzzling investigators and bird rescuers who say the violence is particularly damaging this close to the endangered birds’ mating season.

The pelicans, including two this week, were discovered around Cabrillo Beach, along the Los Angeles harbor.

``It could be there is one individual in the harbor who has a bent against pelicans,″ said Bruce Toloski, a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The birds may be getting aggressive because this year’s El Nino weather pattern has dispersed the schools of fish they eat, said Dan Anderson, a professor of avian ecology at the University of California, Davis.

``When they are begging for bait from fishermen it ticks people off,″ Anderson said.

Last August, 14 people were charged with misdemeanors after boat captains were found wounding pelicans and seals that went after baited hooks.

Seven pelicans were found in December apparently shot to death and an eighth with badly damaged wings around Cabrillo Beach. A few days later, four pelicans were found with their right wings broken in the same way.

The deaths came before the April mating season. California brown pelicans have been on the endangered list since the 1970s, when the birds were decimated by sprayed DDT, though the species has recovered dramatically.

Last year on the Oregon coast, six brown pelicans were found with their upper beaks cut off. No connection has been found with the California attacks.

In the early 1990s, dozens of brown pelicans were burned, slashed and strangled along a 200-mile stretch of the coast from San Diego to Santa Barbara.

Violators of the federal Endangered Species Act can be sentenced to a year in prison and fined up to $100,000.

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