Off-leash dogs are being blamed for the gruesome deaths of two magnificent pelicans on the shores of Lake Illawarra, in the latest of several attacks.
Wildlife rescue volunteer Betty Spilstead spotted two adult pelicans with badly mauled beak pouches off the shore of Berkeley harbour on Sunday. Despite the best efforts of two volunteer women and two blokes with a tinnie, the pelicans could not be saved.
They're the fourth birds killed in two weeks, Ms Spilstead said.
"I think it's getting worse at the moment," she said. "I've never seen so many people walking up Northcliffe Dr with dogs. They're everywhere - the dogs must think it's Christmas time."
Ms Spilstead didn't see the attack but she had no doubt what happened, with the pelican's under-beak pouches ripped apart.
"It's a dog ... when I've got it in my arms and I'm looking at it, I could see the bruise marks where the teeth actually grabbed," she said.
"I've experienced it before, down at Warrawong and different areas. It's very apparent. These last two particularly.
"Think about a pelican. His only defence is to try and run or fly and if he can't he'll turn his head. And once a dog gets a hold of that pouch, it's just shattered, torn to shreds."
With no pouch to catch food, the pelicans can't survive. They were euthanised.
Wildlife Rescue South Coast training co-ordinator Jenny Packwood said Ms Spilstead had found "quite a few" that had been attacked by dogs recently.
She and another volunteer, Tianna, had tried to get the pelicans back to shore on Sunday but could not. Over the coming days they returned and two men, Scott and Russell Massey, offered to help with their tinnie.
"After rounding up one of the birds with the boat Tianna jumped into the lake and captured [him]," Ms Spilstead said.
On Wednesday they managed to catch the female.
"She was exhausted after three days of no food and not being able to prevent water from getting into her mouth, and was weak and waterlogged and finally able to be caught.
"She was worse off than the first pelican. Her torn pouch had wrapped around her bottom beak and snapped it in four or five places. There was little to nothing left of the flesh of her pouch.
"It's a sad ending for both of these magnificent birds."
"On behalf of Wildlife Rescue South Coast, we would sincerely like the thank Scott and Russell Massey for taking our members out in their boat and helping them catch the two injured birds.
"We would also like to remind people that unless it is an off leash park please do not let your dogs run off uncontrolled. These are our beautiful native birds that have suffered horribly."
The wildlife rescue hotline, 24 hours, is 0418 427214.
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