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In this Feb 15, 2007 file photo, an American Brown Pelican skims the water as it searches for fish in Miami Beach, Fla. After nearly 40 years on the brink of extinction, the brown pelican is coming off the endangered species list.
Authorities are investigating after several brown pelicans have been found with cuts on their pouches in the Florida Keys.
As many as nine pelicans have been spotted with intentional cuts to their pouches between Cudjoe Key and Summerland Key in just the past two weeks, Florida Keys Wildlife Rescue President Maya Totman said Thursday.
"They're really very sad, they are slashed all the way from top to bottom, you can see their breathing holes," Totman said.
Totman said four pelicans have been found dead. Another one that was found this past Saturday had to be taken to a veterinarian to have surgery, and is expected to survive.
"It's terrible, I just don't understand how someone could do such a thing," Totman said. "This was definitely done on purpose."
Totman said the pelicans have been found by fishermen but she and some of her colleagues are now patrolling the nearby islands to try to spot more. Some of the birds have been observed with cuts to their pouches but have flown away.
The pelicans have been considered a nuisance by some fishermen as they can get caught in lines or grab fish from boats, Totman said.
And it's not the first time the pelicans have been targeted. Totman said a few years ago, a Keys resort worker was caught feeding some pelicans fish with poison in them.
Totman said she's reported the incidents to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and both agencies are investigating.
"We have so many problems with these poor birds here," she said.