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California pelicans' wounds caused by sea lions
Mystery solved: Wildlife officials say sea lions are putting gaping wounds in Calif. pelicans
By The Associated Press

MORRO BAY, Calif. (AP) ' Game wardens say they have discovered that sea lions are responsible for the unsettling number of brown pelicans showing up along California's Central Coast with huge puncture wounds in their chests.

Sea lions and pelicans have been competing for baitfish, which are coming in unusually close to shore this year, said State Fish and Game spokesman Andrew Hughan Wednesday.

As many as 15 birds have died recently from wounds that a veterinarian said appeared to have been caused by a knife or other sharp object.

A kayaker apparently witnessed a sea lion attacking and dragging a pelican underwater. While unusual, such attacks are not unprecedented, Hughan said.

"It's nature doing its thing," he said. "We're relieved that it's nature and not a malicious poacher or some kids out there."

The discovery was first reported by the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

Last Thursday three pelicans were brought into the Pacific Wildlife Care center in Morro Bay. Two had to be euthanized because the injuries were so bad and a third is being treated.

Earlier this week officials said the pelicans could be injuring themselves on rocks as they dive for baitfish in Port San Luis and Avila Beach, but would not rule out foul play. The wounds were more serious than typical injuries from fish hook and line entanglements.

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