PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - Did Mardi Gras revelers kill a protected brown pelican? State wildlife officials are trying to answer that question after picking up the remains of a pelican from along the parade route in Pass Christian.
A spokesman for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks said agents picked up the bird after a tip came into the department's wildlife hotline. The pelican's death caused a stir on social media as hundreds of people shared a post from someone who claimed to witness float riders repeatedly tossing beads at the bird. Jim Walker spokesman for MDWFP said state and federal officials "will investigate this to the fullest."
Walker said his agency has some leads and is talking to people who say they witnessed the attack on the pelican. The pelican will undergo testing will be to determine how the bird died.
"We are going to go the distance to solve this. This is totally unacceptable," Walker said. "Everybody should know this is a protected bird. It's a beautiful bird. It doesn't harm anyone. It's an irresponsible action done by irresponsible individuals."
Brown pelicans, once on the endangered species list, thrive along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but remain protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Missy Dubuisson of Wild At Heart Rescue was distraught to learn about the pelican's death. Her organization received more than 400 messages about a Facebook post claiming the pelican was pelted with Mardi Gras beads. Dubuisson said she contacted wildlife officials right away.
"We're not law enforcers. But because we are state and federally permitted, it is our obligation to report any violations of wildlife regulations so the proper officials can investigate."
State officials say they are continuing to gather evidence and welcome calls from witnesses, including anyone with video or photos of the incident.
"There's a lot of people who want to come forward and help us solve this," Walker said.
The state's wildlife hotline is 1-800-BE-SMART. Tips left on that line are confidential.