Every year, the Wildlife Center of the North Coast in Astoria reports dead birds intentionally hit by motorists on beaches of northwest Oregon and southwest Washington. Usually, one or two animals are killed. But last week, 92 shorebirds died in an apparent vehicle attack on Washington's Long Beach Peninsula.
The strike, one of the biggest ever according to the center, has raised a record reward.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal rights group headquartered in Virginia, offered $5,000 on Monday for information leading to prosecution. The group often puts up money to solve animal abuse cases around the country. But this is the first time it's intervened in a Northwest bird kill, said Stephanie Bell, associate director of PETA's cruelty investigations.
"We were horrified by the allegations," Bell said. "The alleged crime was vicious. Many of the animals had torn wings and died of their injuries."
The kill was reported by two beachcombers out for a mid-day stroll on Thursday along the Long Beach Peninsula. Near the Cranberry Beach entrance, they walked by a large flock of Dunlins, a small Sandpiper-like bird, gathered on the sand. All was fine. But when the pair returned 20 minutes later, carcasses littered the beach. Wide tire tracks were imprinted on the sand in a clear sign of a bird strike.
The couple, horrified, called the wildlife center, which, in turn, notified Washington state law enforcement. Two officers, one from Fish and Wildlife enforcement and another from the Pacific County Sheriff's Office, investigated late Thursday afternoon. They snapped pictures of the birds and examined carcasses.
It was clearly a crime scene, said Sgt. Dan Chadwick of the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
"The trauma to the birds was indicative of a vehicle strike," Chadwick said