All zoo inhabitants become members of extended family.

Zoo creatures are considered treasured members of their communities.

With that in mind, residents of Garden City should be alarmed and disgusted by what transpired recently at Lee Richardson Zoo, when a roadrunner known as Elmer was injured so badly he had to be euthanized.

The apparent attack by a visitor left zoo staff and others to wonder how someone could viciously target a beautiful creature who entertained and educated zoo patrons.

Zoo workers who develop close relationships with the animals understandably were heartbroken over the apparent attack on a bird that wasn't shy about human interaction, and would offer twigs and feathers as friendly gestures.

"His lively personality and amusing antics could brighten the worst day," Kristi Newland, the zoo's general curator and deputy director, wrote in a recent "From Zoo to You" column in The Telegram.

Members of the public accustomed to seeing the roadrunner in the walk-through aviary also will notice a void without Elmer, part of the Lee Richardson Zoo and Garden City families for about eight years.

Sadly, it wouldn't be the first attack on a bird at the local zoo. The same has happened at other zoos that give the public a close look at birds from all parts of the world.

Zoo staff cannot keep an eye on every visitor. And, many zoos don't have surveillance cameras due to the cost.

If, as suspected, the roadrunner was indeed subjected to a malicious act, the hope is a witness can share information that leads local law enforcement to those responsible. The incident may have happened sometime between 11:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. June 26, according to local police.

People with information should contact the Garden City Police Department at 276-1300. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 275-7807 or text GCTIP and tip information to 847411 (Tip411).

Anyone who would deliberately harm an animal should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Holding a perpetrator accountable could help send a message that such sick acts won't be tolerated in a community that considers its zoo inhabitants part of the family.