HUNTINGTON BEACH, California (AOL News) ~ A bizarre and gruesome mystery has been unfolding in “Surf City USA” that has local wildlife experts scratching their heads. In the past three weeks almost 30 birds have turned up in the Huntington Beach area, all with an uncanny identical injury: a devastatingly shattered right wing.
Debbie McGuire, wildlife director for the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center, has taken in the birds as they have been found by the public, and says she’s never seen anything quite like it. “It almost seems ritualistic, even cultish. In just about every case the right wing has been brutally broken and all but one of the birds has had to be euthanized,” she said, ” we have no idea what’s going on. If it’s occurring at sea, there could be many more that die before they get to shore. Still, we’ve seen many sea gulls, a pelican, a cormorant, a crow — it’s bizarre. All being left for dead after having their right wing broken. This is the work of a monster.”
WWCC director Greg Hickman agrees that it’s one of the most strange, as well as most disturbing things he’s ever seen. “It’s as much a sickening mystery to us as it is to everyone else,” he said, “nearly identical compound fractures of the right wing. So severely injured, there’s almost nothing we can do for them. None of this makes sense. They’re not net injuries that you might see from a fishing boat. This is a blunt and twisting force that seems very deliberate. Horrible, strange crimes like we’ve never seen before.”
And true crimes they could be; most sea-faring birds are protected by Federal law, and violators can face up to six months in jail and fines up to $15,000, according to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Hickman added that the local Fish and Game Department and other relevant agencies have been notified, but so far have produced no clues as to how the injuries are occuring, or by whom. The luckiest break would be to catch one of the attacks with video or still camera.
Kelly Beavers, a wildlife technician at the center, was the first person to recognize a pattern in the recurrence of right-wing injuries. That’s when she notified Hickman, her boss. She told AOL News, “I said to him, ‘This is not normal. Something very strange is happening here. This pattern seems to represent a sort of craziness.’ ”
When describing the severity of the injuries, Beavers added, “The radial, ulna and humerus bones are cleanly and completely torn apart in almost all cases. Ripped wide open, an open wound with shattered, fragmented bone. The birds, when they get brought here, are completely healthy except for these horrific wounds. We have to put them down and it hurts so much more because the birds are otherwise fine, but they just can’t be repaired.”
All the euthanized birds are being kept as evidence instead of being cremated, which is the regular process. Authorities are treating this as a crime spree and, if a culprit is caught, their bodies will serve as evidence in the prosecution’s case. Anyone with knowledge of these crimes is encouraged to contact the California Department of Fish and Game or e-mail [email protected].
Photo credit: Chris Epting/AOL NewsTags: birds, broken, huntington beach, right, wing