Someone has slipped sliced-open beer cans around the necks of at least three gulls in the Bay Area, and now an animal rescue group is trying to find the birds and the person or people responsible.
"It's sick. What's the next level of this kind of abuse?" said Rebecca Dmytryk of Monterey County-based WildRescue.
Dmytryk said she first heard about the birds after getting some disturbing photos at the end of September that showed a gull with half a Budweiser can stuck around its neck like a collar. She has confirmed sightings at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, a beach in Half Moon Bay and other undisclosed locations in the Bay Area.
Recent publicity has generated more tips. She and her husband hope to find two of the birds today and help them.
Dmytryk said the can collars put the birds' lives at risk. The gulls won't be able to properly feed as long as they are in place, nor will they be able to fully groom their feathers. Unclean feathers will lose their waterproof qualities and leave the birds vulnerable to the elements. The cans could also get stuck on something, trapping the gulls.
It's not clear if someone is setting a trap for the birds or catching them and shoving the cans around their necks, though the latter seems more likely, said Special Agent Alfred Colby of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. His office is aware of the case but not investigating it.
"Until more specific information is developed there is not a whole lot we can do," he said, adding his office would launch a probe if more leads are passed to investigators.
Anyone who is catching or trying to catch birds is breaking federal law, he said. Under the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act any "taking" of the animals is punishable by fines that range from $500 to $15,000 and up to a year in prison. There are also local and state provisions that prohibit animal cruelty.
Donors have put up a $2,000 reward for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person who put the cans on the birds.
Dmytryk said that anyone who spots the gulls should not try to catch them.
Instead, people should page her organization at 831-429-2323 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335.
A $2,000 reward is offered for information leading to arrest, conviction.
by the law
$500 to $15,000
Federal fines for "taking" animals, not including prison time