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Zoo roadrunner euthanized after being injured

7/6/2013

By ANGIE HAFLICH

By ANGIE HAFLICH

ahaflich@gctelegram.com

On June 26, the Garden City Police Department received a report that a roadrunner at Lee Richardson Zoo had been badly beaten.

"It appears the bird was kicked or stomped on, or something was used to beat it," Garden City Police Department Capt. Michael Reagle said.

The incident is believed to have happened sometime between 11:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. June 26 when a visitor to the zoo reported that something was wrong with one of the birds in the aviary.

Kristi Newland, general curator and deputy director, said the roadrunner, affectionately named Elmer, was then transported to the zoo's vet clinic.

"The veterinarian's report ... came through, and the roadrunner was going to have to be euthanized due to multiple injuries caused by malicious trauma suspected to be from a member of the public," Newland said in a column published in The Telegram on Friday. "Now if that report doesn't send your day plummeting and spiraling straight down into the pits, I don't know what does."

Newland said zoo staff members shared her reaction.

"Pretty much the same — very, very upset, mad, angry, disappointed," she said.

Newland said staff members maintained their professionalism, however, despite the heartbreaking news.

She said this isn't the first time a bird has been attacked at the zoo.

"It has happened a few times over the years. It's just been birds. I believe we had two birds in '06 or '07 and maybe one other one since," she said. "It has happened at other zoos too. It's not just us."

Newland said that she still believes that the majority of visitors to the zoo care for the zoo and its animals, just as much as zoo staff.

"We appreciate the folks who saw the problem and came and said something," she said.

Elmer had been at the zoo for about eight years. Newland said he was something of a greeter to both zoo staff members and visitors.

"I don't know if he thought we were roadrunners, or he thought he was a person. He was a pretty people-oriented bird. That's not to say he ignored his female roadrunner friends, but I think he felt people were as much roadrunners as he was," she said.

She said Elmer was known for presenting twigs or feathers to keepers he knew.

"His lively personality and amusing antics could brighten the worst day. He had many friends and admirers among the staff and zoo visitors," Newland said in the column.

Reagle said there are no suspects at this point.

"The initial report was taken for criminal damage to property. If we locate who did this, there would likely be other charges, as well," Reagle said.

Anyone with information regarding the incident is encouraged to contact the GCPD at 276-1300. Those wishing to remain anonymous may contact Crime Stoppers at 275-7807 or text GCTIP and tip information to 847411 (Tip411).

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