Questions arise in pelican shooting investigation

By Adam Ganucheau
Daily Journal

SALTILLO – The location of an American white pelican that was shot last week remains unknown, despite multiple calls to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

An investigation into the shooting is ongoing, according to MDWFP Officer Richard Stephen, but officials are not optimistic that the shooter will be caught.

Stephen received a call July 15 from a resident about an injured pelican in a small, private pond near the intersection of Ingomar Road and Martintown Road southwest of New Albany in Union County. Stephen transported the injured pelican to Saltillo Small Animal Hospital, where veterinarian John Morris discovered the bird had shotgun pellets lodged in its wing and head.

According to Morris, Stephen came and picked the bird up from the clinic July 19 after Morris treated the bird with multiple rounds of antibiotics. Morris’ license to treat wildlife is only good for a short amount of time, so he had to call MDWFP to retrieve the animal.

Multiple attempts over two days to obtain information about the bird’s current location and condition from both the North Region MDWFP office in Tupelo and the state MDWFP office in Jackson were unsuccessful.

Stephen said he dropped the pelican off at the MDWFP North Regional office in Tupelo last Friday, but was unaware of what officers at the regional office did with the bird after that.

As far as the investigation into the shooting goes, Stephen said the chances of catching the shooter are slim.

“We questioned a lot of people in the area, but we haven’t been able to get any information,” Stephen said. “These types of investigations are extremely difficult because that bird could have come from anywhere.”

For now, Stephen hopes that someone will phone in a tip to MDWFP.

Morris said last week that he believed the pelican would make a full recovery from its injuries and would be released back into the wild, but he also said he did not believe the bird was ready to be released into the wild.

When Morris typically receives an injured wild animal, he contacts Mississippi Wildlife Rehabilitation, which has long-term treatment licenses to care for injured animals. Val Smith, the director of the organization, said they did not have space to take the animal, so Morris had to contact MDWFP to retrieve the bird.

adam.ganucheau@journalinc.com