Pelican Found Mutilated to Be Released Along Coast

California brown pelican found with mutilated pouch to return to the coast

Pink, the beloved California brown pelican who became a media darling when rescuers nursed it back to health after it was found with its throat pouch slashed, is set to soar the coastal skies again when it will be set free on Tuesday at a Southern California beach.

The California brown pelican that got its nickname for the color of its leg band, has made an incredibly fast recovery. It will be released in a park near the Los Angeles harbor, according to a press release from the International Bird Rescue.

"Despite the vicious attack against this pelican, Pink brought out the best in wildlife lovers all over
the country," said IBR Executive Director Jay Holcomb. "Though we still don’t know who committed this criminal act, we’re thrilled to release a strong and healthy Pink, one of hundreds of pelicans we care for every year."

The bird was found in Long Beach April 16. Someone used a sharp object, possibly a knife, to nearly sever its throat pouch.

The bird was thin, anemic and couldn't eat or fly.

It took two surgeries and about 600 stitches to sew Pink up.

A $7,500 reward was offered to find the person responsible for the federal offense.

Rescuers said pelicans are killed by people who see them as competition for fish.

Their diets consist mostly of anchovies and sardines and fish that are used as bait.

The news comes as a survey found the number of once-endangered California brown pelicans is dropping.

An annual survey completed last month looked at breeding colonies in Mexico's Gulf of California, where 90 percent of the population nests.

It found that this year, areas that typically host hundreds or thousands of nesting pairs sometimes held none at all, according to a statement Monday from the University of California, Davis.

The reason could range from food problems to changes in ocean temperature.

The California brown pelican was declared an endangered species in 1970 after being pushed to the brink of extinction by the pesticide DDT. It rebounded by 2009 but last year scientists said many birds were starving because their food supply — sardines — had crashed.

Anyone with information that could lead to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the bird's mutilation should contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 310-328-1516.

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