To the rescue
Port Aransas wildlife rehabilitators have rescued two of several birds spotted recently with blow darts protruding from their bodies, and community members have put together a reward of at least $1,000 for information leading to the successful prosecution of those responsible for the cruelty.
Four birds - three laughing gulls and a grackle - have been seen recently flying around Port Aransas with blow darts hanging from their bodies, said Tony Amos, director of the Animal Rehabilitation Keep (ARK), a facility that mends sick and injured wildlife on the grounds of the University of Texas Marine Science Institute.
Rescuers have been able to catch one gull, nurse it back to health and release it, Amos said.
On Padre Island, a man with a cast net caught a relatively rare American oystercatcher, a shore bird that was walking around the beach with two darts in its body on Friday, Oct. 10. The bird was taken to the ARK. Amos said its prognosis was good.
The blow-dart attacks are illegal, but neither police nor wildlife authorities have made arrests in the cases.
Amos wrote sharply about the attacks in his "Island observer" column in last week's South Jetty. News of the incidents also angered Nan Dietert, who, with her husband, Lyndon Holcomb, writes the "For the birds" column in the South Jetty.
Dietert first learned of the incidents by reading Amos's column. She threw the newspaper to the floor when she saw a photo of the oystercatcher with two darts in its body.
"It was just the blatant cruelty and senselessness of it," Dietert said.
Dietert quickly raised $1,000 in donations from community members to create a fund to be rewarded to anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for the attacks on the birds.
Amos wasn't surprised by the size of the reward fund or how fast it came together.
"When people saw that helpless bird with two darts sticking in it, that hit a trigger," Amos told a television news crew at the ARK Tuesday. "They felt we've got to get these people."
Dietert is working with Tri-County Crime Stoppers, which serves Nueces, San Patricio and Aransas counties and is headquartered at the Aransas Pass Police Department.
APPD Sgt. Gus Perez said Crime Stoppers normally offers its own reward money of up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for a crime. That's how it will work in the attacks on the birds, he said. He said he will go to the Crime Stoppers Board of Directors to get permission to offer the $1,000 raised by Dietert as a reward in addition to a regular Crime Stoppers reward.
Anyone who has information on the dart attacks may call Tri-County Crime Stoppers at (361) 758-TIPS (8477) or 1-800-245-TIPS. Callers may remain anonymous.
Callers also may contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in San Antonio at (210) 681-8419 or the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Corpus Christi at (361) 289-5566, according to officials with those agencies.
Gary Young is the agent in charge of the Fish and Wildlife Service office in San Antonio, which is responsible for areas of central, west and south Texas. He said his agency will investigate the dart attacks if it receives evidence of who may have committed the crimes.
All of the birds hit by the darts are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Young said. Violating the act can mean fines up to $5,000 and up to six months in jail, he said.