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Man accused of strangling pelican to death on Malibu Pier

File photo of brown pelicans.
File photo of brown pelicans.
Joe Raedle-Getty Images

A 30-year old man is being held on $20,000 bail for being accused of strangling a pelican to death Wednesday evening on the picturesque Malibu Pier.

According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, a witness claims to have seen Sergio Alvarez choking a pelican with both hands. "Witnesses told deputies the pelican flapped its wings in distress until its body went limp and died," wrote Lt. Robert Wiard of the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station.

"When the deputy detained suspect Alvarez, he made comments regarding the pelican which led the investigating deputy to believe suspect Alvarez killed the pelican," Wiard wrote. It is believed that Alvarez is a transient and regular of the pier.

The brown pelican is not endangered, but is a Fully Protected species which "may not be taken or possessed at any time and no licenses or permits may be issued for their take except for collecting these species for necessary scientific research and relocation of the bird species for the protection of livestock".

If convicted, killing a pelican can incur fines up to $20,000. One can also be sentenced to state prison for up to three years, or in county jail for up to one year. 

Stephanie Bell, associate director of PETA's cruelty investigations department, says she has never heard of this type of voilence toward a pelican.

"This is new to us," Bell said Thursday. "Even the Fish and Game Deptartment was shocked."

Bell said that pelicans are not typically aggressive animals but they can become aggressive sometimes around food.

"It sounds like people feed pelicans at this location. We discourage the feeding of wildlife, but nothing would merit the kind of actions that were described here," Bell said.

"Anybody who witnesses cruelty to aimals should call law enforcement right away," Bell added. "These witnesses did the right thing. That could have saved other animals lives. People don't always act quickly, so we applaud their actions.