Updated at the bottom with Alvarez' horrendously scary mug shot, and the D.A. agreeing to file felony charges.
Originally posted August 23 at 9:20 a.m.
We can't wait to see L.A. County's equally fierce homeless advocates and animal-rights activists go head-to-head on this one:
Sheriff's officials at the Malibu station say that around 5:50 p.m. last night, 30-year-old Sergio Alvarez, a local transient, horrified Wednesday-evening beachgoers near the Malibu Pier by…
… killing a brown pelican with his bare hands.
Witnesses told a passing deputy that they had watched the beach bum take “a pelican by its throat” and wring its (admittedly long and very wring-able) neck until it choked to death.
“The pelican flapped its wings in distress until its body went limp and died,” reads the sheriff's report. Alvarez then apparently hid the incriminating carcass, because the responding deputy had to locate the evidence “with the help of witnesses.”
Sergeant Michael Holland, watch commander at the station, told City News Service of the suspect: “He said he was hungry. And he found the bird dead and was going to eat it.”
The “hungry” part is believable. But the forever-scarred pier folk attest that Alvarez' alleged victim was very much alive when the hunt began.
The consequences of allegedly strangling a pelican to death, via sheriff's report:
Based on the deputy's investigation, Suspect Alvarez, a transient who frequents the Malibu pier area, was arrested for felony animal cruelty and booked at Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff's Station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. He is being held on $20,000 bail.
Personnel from the California Wildlife Center responded and took possession of the pelican.
Forget the California State Parks department and its much-protested plan to raze the Malibu Lagoon. The No. 1 enemy of Malibu wildlife may be a growing population of mercilessly hungry beach bums.
Although brown pelicans are no longer listed as endangered, according to the California Department of Fish and Game, they're “still a fully-protected species in California, and a beautiful spectacle to behold while flying over the ocean and plunging into the water for food.”
The biggest problem that Fish and Game has with human-pelican interaction is that tourists think it's fun to feed them. Neck strangling appears to be a whole new ball game.
Update No. 1: Fish and Game spokesman Esther Burkett is shocked at the news. She says the department has never heard of anyone actually killing a member of this “fully protected” species.
“The worst thing we ever saw in the past was people cutting off their beaks… in the mid-90s or so,” she says. “Some people thought it might be the fishermen who didn't like the pelicans hanging out near their vessels.”
Although the brown-pelican population might seem healthy, especially somewhere like the Malibu Pier, Burkett says that the deliberate elimination of even one pelican definitely “affects the conservation of the species.”
Update No. 2: Just when we thought this story couldn't get any more creepy, the sheriff released the alleged pelican strangler's mug shot. Bozo hair aside, the fact that dude could put on such a content and serene face, moments after (allegedly) squeezing the life out of a squawking bird friend, is highly concerning.
Accordingly, the L.A. County District Attorney announced this afternoon that the 30-year-old transient has been charged with one count of felony animal cruelty. More from the D.A.:
Sergio Alvarez, (dob 3-21-82), was scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon in case LA071813 at Van Nuys Superior Court, Department 100. Prosecutors will ask bail be set at $30,000.
A witness summoned a sheriff's deputy after allegedly witnessing Alvarez choking the bird near the Malibu Pier Wednesday evening. Authorities said Alvarez allegedly was going to eat the pelican because he hadn't been able to catch any fish.
So it looks like Alvarez might count himself part of the anti-pelican fisherman brigade, after all. In response to Fish and Game's comments on pelican brutality being fairly rare (above), we received this biting email from pelican activist Karen Benzel:
Fish and Game should not be shocked at the intentional killing of a pelican. … Anyone who works with pelicans knows for a fact that the greatest human threat to seabirds is fisherman. Fishing line and fishhook injuries are the greatest man made cause of pelican injury and death.
Glad we cleared that up. And local animal-rights warrior Mary Cummins, the same woman who heroically tried to save a pelican from the La Brea tar pits last summer, adds via email: “Sometimes fishermen get pissed at pelicans for snagging their fish. That's generally when people harm them.”
However, she writes, “If the homeless person was really going to eat the pelican, that is just bizarre. … I've never heard of anyone wanting to kill a pelican to eat it.”