Pelican Shooting at Nathalia
In May, 2014, I was called to Echuca to catch an injured Pacific Black Duck who had been shot with a bow and arrow. The poor duck was actually still able to fly well but had the arrow stuck right through its body! With the help of the riverboat captain of the Emmy Lou, who sent a staff member and a boat to get me out on the water, we were able to chase the duck up and down the river til I got close enough to net it then jump in and grab it. I took the duck straight to our vet, Jude Mulholland, we removed the arrow under anesthetic but sadly, it died a few days later due to complications with the injury. A police report was filed with the Echuca Police.
On Sunday 20th July, I received an urgent call to attend the rescue of an injured pelican on the Broken Creek, Nathalia. The information I was given was that it was a 'drive by shooting' of a small group of pelicans which were resting on logs in the centre of the creek. The shooting was witnessed by people living beside the creek in a house direct opposite to where the crime took place.
I was on the road within 5 minutes of receiving the call out and I called the lady who had called it in on the way to find out more details with many things running through my head. Sure enough, the information I had been given was right. A white 4WD had been witnessed pulling up on the edge of the opposite side of creek and a gun barrel appeared out the passenger window. Shots were fired at a group of four pelicans which were resting on logs on the creek. The pelicans took flight but one was said to be definitely injured as it had a gunshot wound to the neck and possibly another was hit as well. I had called Deb before I left to let her know what I was heading out to and to give her the heads up in case I needed any help.
When I arrived at the location the pelican with neck injury was no longer there. The police arrived soon after and a report was filed. I began searching for the bird. I didn't have much light left before dark and called upon a friend who brought his boat and we put it on the creek, in full darkness. We searched by torchlight in snag ridden waters until our torches became dim and we had to give up. The Broken Creek in that area makes navigating a boat a tedious task due to so many large logs and snags so is very slow work. We actually got stuck on a huge log which ran along the underside of the boat for it's full length and it took us half an hour and one broken oar later to get off it. I'm glad Harry refused to let me jump in the icy water to try push us off when we were getting very concerned that we wouldn't make it back before our torches went completely flat! Conditions were freezing and we both couldn't feel our feet when we finally got safely back to the bank.
The following day, I went out again and searched. I dragged a dead Pelican out of the creek further back towards town. The other victim of the shooting. Also found a dead Purple Swamp Hen not far from where the shooting took place which had also been shot.
Searching continued over the next few weeks. The Pelican who had gunshot wounds to the back of his neck and also damage under one wing could still fly and fly well so although we located him in the end, there was no way I could catch him. Eventually, he wasn't sighted any longer and I actually got called out to a Pelican 6 weeks later, who was floating dead in the Broken Creek at Numurkah, which is not far from Nathalia. This bird had healed wounds suspiciously identical to the same areas as the Pelican pictured and there is no way of telling for sure, but I do believe that it was the shot bird we were searching for.
This shooting is just one of an increased number of cruelty cases we have had to deal with over the past few years. It disturbs us that animal cruelty cases, particularly wildlife cruelty cases seem to be becoming more and more frequent. It is not just in Northern Victoria either, it is Australia wide, as we continue to hear more reports from other shelters who are dealing with an increase of identical types of crimes. Sadly, many cases of children inflicting cruelty to nestling birds have also been reported recently.
Less than a week after the pelican shooting Bohollow's release property was broken into by spot lighters who smashed their vehicles through the padlocked gates and drove onto the bushland property, shooting at the resident Kangaroos. I found three dead roos the following day when we became aware of what had happened. No clean shots and one poor female had travelled about 100m before she bled out from her injuries. Again, a police report was filed but as yet nothing has come to light as to who the perpetrators are.
The nature of these cruelty acts is nothing short of barbaric, showing no respect or empathy for another living creature and we urge people to be vigilant. Report it!
Report anything you witness to police and to Bohollow, take evidence such as number plates, descriptions, times, etc. This is the only way we can be sure the people who commit these crimes are brought to justice. As no one actually 'owns' native wildlife, they have no voice other than people who care about their well being and that's people like us at Bohollow and you!
Bohollow would like to thank Leanne for the use of her boat whenever I needed it to search, Nathalia and Kyabram Police for their quick response and concern, Peter, riverboat captain of the Emmy Lou and his crew member, Daryl, who notified us of the Kangaroo shooting, everyone who kept an eye out for the injured Pelican in Nathalia and above all to Harry and his wife, who came out the night of the Pelican shooting and took me out in such horrible, difficult conditions to search.
Sunday 20th July, 2014