A $7,500 reward is being offered to find the person who stabbed the throat pouch of a California brown pelican, forcing the bird to undergo surgeries and get hundreds of stitches.
Wildlife officials tripled the reward from $2,500 to $7,500 on Wednesday.
The bird was found in the 5400 block of Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach by Animal Control on April 16, according to a release by the International Bird Rescue (IBR).
Its entire pouch was cut with a sharp object all the way around, possibly a knife, and it will now need hundreds of stitches to repair the wound. Temporary staples are holding the pouch in place so the pelican can eat.
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The bird is living in a small aviary awaiting surgery -- possibly multiple surgeries -- to repair the pouch. It's scheduled to undergo its first surgery on Sunday.
"Pelicans are of no threat to anyone yet they continue to be mutilated and even killed by people who see them as competition for fish," IBR Director Jay Holcomb said. "The truth is a pelican's diet is mostly anchovies and sardines, fish that are used as bait by people who fish for sport."
The discovery of the abused pelican is especially dismal as the California brown pelican is a threatened species -- only recently taken off the endangered species list.
Harming a migratory bird like the California brown pelican would be a possible federal felony offense.
As many as nine pelicans were spotted with intentional cuts to their pouches in the Florida Keys within a two-week period last December.
A brown pelican who was mutilated in 2012 was nursed back to health and released into the wild in Rancho Palos Verdes in September 2013.
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 (USFWS) at 310-328-1516.
Anyone who wants to donate to the bird's recovery and others needing care can visit IBR's website at http://www.bird-rescue.org/