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Pelican, gull freed from beer can collars are recovering

By John Zarrella, CNN
updated 10:30 AM EST, Thu March 7, 2013
This herring gull was one of two birds found by a rescue group with beer cans shoved over their heads.
This herring gull was one of two birds found by a rescue group with beer cans shoved over their heads.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rescue official says she has rescued birds from danger before, "but never this"
  • Someone had cut both ends off beer cans and forced them over birds' heads like collars
  • Pelican also had signs of avian botulism; gull was emaciated and needed fresh fish soup

(CNN) -- Maya Totman says she's never seen anything like this before: birds with beer cans forced over their heads.

"This is sickening," she said. "We are here to help the wildlife and this is what you do."

Totman, who heads Florida Keys Wildlife Rescue Inc., received a call Monday about two injured birds on Big Pine Key, about 30 miles east of Key West.

When she arrived, she found a semi-paralyzed brown pelican and a weak, emaciated herring gull. Each bird had a Busch beer can around its neck like a collar.

Someone had cut the ends of the cans and forced them over the birds' heads, around their necks.

"They were gasping for breath," Totman said. "They wouldn't have survived another day or two."

A rescue official said the birds were \
A rescue official said the birds were "gasping for breath."

The cans were immediately cut off. The pelican had symptoms of avian botulism and needed fluid to flush toxins from its system. The gull needed fluids as well, along with a helping of fresh fish soup.

Totman said the birds are doing beautifully and should be released back into the wild soon.

"We come across birds stuck in nets, bottles, fishing line and with hooks in them, but never this," said Totman, who has been working in the Keys since 1993.

Totman said she believes at least two people were involved, one to hold down the bird and another to put the can around its neck.

"No way one person can do this," she said.

Who did it? So far, there are no leads, but Totman said the area crime watch was notified and is keeping an eye out.

The birds were found a day after an osprey was found shot with BB gun pellets in the same area. The osprey was not seriously injured.

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