State Fish and Game wardens are trying to figure out why so many brown pelicans are showing up along California's Central Coast with huge puncture wounds in their chests.
The San Luis Obispo Tribune (http://bit.ly/nS5InW) reports that 15 birds have died in recent days from wounds that could have been caused by a knife or other sharp object.
Last Thursday three were brought into the Pacific Wildlife Care center in Morro Bay and two had to be euthanized because the injuries were so bad. The third is being treated.
The pelicans could be injuring themselves on rocks as they dive for baitfish in Port San Luis and Avila Beach, but officials say they can't rule out foul play. The wounds are more serious than typical injuries from fish hook and line entanglements, according to center director Jeanette Stone.
"These are wounds that are huge, gaping and ripped open at the chest," she said.
Pelicans, which are drawn to the area because of the profusion of baitfish, are frequently injured during the late summer months. Juvenile birds that aren't proficient foragers have been known to try to take fish at the end of a fishermen's line.
"They are pretty desperate animals right now," Stone said.