By Laila Kearney
(Reuters) - U.S. animal rights groups are offering a $10,000 reward for information on a person who apparently mutilated a California brown pelican this month in a case that has drawn widespread public attention.
California brown pelicans are a threatened species that is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The pelican, named Pink after the colored band on its leg, was found in the city of Long Beach with a severed throat pouch, the International Bird Rescue (IBR) organization said in a statement.
The emaciated bird's throat was stapled, so it could feed, and it is now being taken care of in a small Los Angeles aviary. On Sunday, it had a three-hour surgery to repair the laceration and IBR said it would require many more operations and extensive rehabilitative care to fully recover.
"In my 40-plus years as a wildlife rehabilitator, I've seen too many of these horrible attacks against innocent animals," IBR executive director Jay Holcomb said in the statement. "The public is sick of it too, and we hear their frustration."
The IBR is offering the reward along with the Animal Legal Defense Fund.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said is was investigating the possible crime, which is punishable by a fine of up to $15,000 and a county jail sentence of up to six months.
(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Miral Fahmy)