Staff and volunteers of Florida Keys Wildlife Rescue on Big Pine Key have released six protected brown pelicans found in the Lower Keys with their throats slashed last month.
Wildlife Rescue founder Totman and volunteers spotted a dozen similarly wounded birds in Lower Keys waters but were able to capture just half of them. But those captured were rehabilitated.
Miami-based veterinarian Don Harris, director of the Avian and Exotic Animal Medical Center, sutured the cuts, allowing the birds to eat again, Totman said.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Bobby Dube said his agency is investigating but "we don't have any leads" about who the slasher is. He said the attacks appear to have stopped.
Anyone with information about who might have injured the birds should call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's wildlife hotline at (888) 404-3922.
In 1970, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the brown pelican as endangered after pesticide contamination almost wiped them out. In 1985, the population in Florida had rebounded to 60,000 and it was taken off the Endangered Species List in that part of its range.
However, the brown pelican still is federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Conviction for harming the birds under that law is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $15,000 fine; penalties for multiple violations can be stacked.