DEAR JOAN: Last Sunday afternoon, as I was strolling around a lovely little lake in Newark, I saw an interaction between two white pelicans and a flock of seagulls that confuses me.

The two pelicans were swimming about 30 feet from each other. Suddenly one of the pelicans took flight and landed next to its fellow pelican. A commotion ensued that, upon closer observation, seemed to be caused by the two pelicans using their long beaks to hold what I thought was one seagull under the water.

American white pelicans
American white pelicans (Karen T. Borchers/Mercury News)

Numerous seagulls overhead began to divebomb the two pelicans as the seagull thrashed about in the water. After less than minute, the captured seagull took flight, but lo and behold, yet another seagull was now in the water being attacked by the pelicans. Overhead bombardment by the flock of seagulls continued and eventually the second seagull escaped intact enough to fly off.

The seagulls left, only to return a few moments later to launch a final attack on the pelicans' heads and then they left for another location. What would cause this behavior? Were the pelicans and seagulls fighting over fishing rights and territory? Would pelicans kill other waterfowl?

Tara J.

Fremont


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DEAR TARA: Although pelicans have been known to eat smaller birds when there is no other food source, what I suspect you were seeing was a fight over some tasty fish.

Pelicans, including the American white pelicans, have a habit of stealing fish from other birds, grabbing a fish from another pelican's pouch or from a bird in flight.

I suspect the seagull had happened upon something both pelicans wanted and were trying to get. They weren't intentionally trying to kill the seagull, they were just trying to steal his lunch. The other seagulls, rather than righteously defending their own, were likely just looking to get in on the food.

DEAR JOAN: I discovered the front half of a freshly killed deer lying on my deck. As there was not much blood, it had obviously been killed somewhere else and dragged onto the deck. I think it was a whole deer when it was dragged as many of the entrails are lying nearby.

I can only think of one animal that could drag something that size -- a mountain lion. It's a little disconcerting to think my deck could be a food storage for a mountain lion. Is there any other explanation?

I live above a large open space between Lafayette and Moraga and see all kinds wildlife, but nothing that could drag a deer.

P.S. After I wrote you, Contra Costa Animal Control came by to pick up the body. The officer believes it was coyotes. After the kill, there was probably fighting over the carcass, with one group running away with the front half. She said that a mountain lion usually would not leave a carcass out in the open. They hide their kills.

Paul J.

Lafayette

DEAR PAUL: I consulted experts and they are divided, some thinking coyotes, some a mountain lion, and some just don't know. The deer's body shows no signs you would expect to see with coyotes (bites on the neck) or a mountain lion (claw marks). This leaves us with a true mystery.

However, there is concern that whatever killed the deer -- or found it already dead or dying -- doesn't seem to be concerned about leaving the food so close to humans. Use caution when going out at night or early in the morning, and don't let children and pets play unattended.

Contact Joan Morris at jmorris@bayareanewsgroup.com; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.