The Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police seeks information about some American White Pelicans that were found floating dead in Newton Lake. Another was injured, but is recuperating.
Conservation Police Officer Zach Roper said he received a phone call around 10 a.m. Tuesday from an IDNR employee at Newton Lake and site superintendent at Red Hill State Park.
“They saw one floating across the water,” said Roper. “When they went to retrieve it they found others in the lake.”
Roper confirmed five pelicans were dead and one was injured. The injured was taken to the Wildlife Medical Clinic at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital, where it is expected to recover and be re-introduced into the wild after rehabilitation, he said.
These pelicans are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Act and also by state laws. It is unclear why someone would kill pelicans, the officer said.
“We haven't figured that one out yet,” said Roper. “This isn't something someone would normally shoot. For example, it has no value to a hunter.”
When conservation police find those responsible for the alleged shootings, charges will be filed. However, until the investigation is complete, Roper couldn't say what those charges will be.
“This is ongoing and we are continually working on it,” he said.
Authorities say the pelicans were shot near the dam on the south end of the lake, in a location where pelicans congregate. Roper wouldn't release what kind of weapon killed the migratory birds, because the investigation is ongoing.
The large migratory birds typically feed on small fish in fresh water lakes and this time of year they move from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada, making stops along the way in central Illinois.
“This is a hold over point in their spring migration,” said Roper. “They started showing up a few weeks ago. They've been at Newton Lake for approximately five years every spring.”
Adult American White Pelicans are about four-feet tall and have a wingspan of about nine feet.
Illinois Natural History Survey reports that the birds are strong fliers that alternate flapping and gliding. They can soar on thermals like hawks during migration at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. They migrate in “V” formation, often soaring to great heights.
In Illinois, White Pelicans have been observed migrating in flocks that number in the hundreds to thousands, according to the survey's website.
Anyone with information can call anonymously to the IDNR TIP hotline at 877-236-7529.
Information can also be provided to the Illinois Conservation Police Facebook page, or contact any of these local Conservation Police Officers: Sgt. Dave Hyatt 618-322-0693; Zach Roper 618-553-7363; Dusty Taylor 618-975-0478; or Paul Smith 618-975-0663.
Dawn Schabbing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-347-7151, ext. 138