The dead birds are back.
A year after a slew of brown pelicans were found in the Keys with their pouches slashed, the bizarre bird mutilations have resumed. In recent weeks, more than a dozen pelicans have been found with their gullets fatally cut.
"It's a mystery," Maya Totman, director of Florida Keys Wildlife Rescue, told the Miami Herald. "I don't know why people are doing this."
In the Keys, pelicans are known to poach food from fishermen. Once considered endangered, the large birds are now viewed by some as more pests than protected animals.
In December 2013, wildlife officials and good Samaritans found roughly a dozen brown pelicans with their poaches slashed. The animals would try to eat fish only to have their catch tumble from their open throats. A few were saved via surgery, but most of the birds starved to death.
Now another spree of slashings is raising the specter of a pelican serial killer.
Five months ago, Kyle Miller was fishing in Summerland Key when he saw a brown pelican struggling to swallow a fish.
"I knew something was wrong because he'd take the ballyhoo and it would fall out of his trap," he told the Herald. "He was so hungry, but he couldn't get anything in his stomach."
From 1970 to 1985, the brown pelican was listed as an endangered species due to pesticide poisonings. But when its population rebounded, problems began between pelicans and fishermen.
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To this day, however, the bird is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and harming the animals can mean fines or even jail time.
Anyone with knowledge of the avian attacks is encouraged to call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (888-404-3922) or the Florida Keys Wildlife Rescue (305-872-1982).