SUMMERLAND KEY (CBSMiami) – A boat captain made a gruesome discovery in the Keys last week, and now wildlife officials are looking for whoever is responsible for slashing the pouches of several pelicans.

Charter boat captain Jim Sharpe, while on his dock in Summerland Key last Friday, noticed each time a pelican tried to swallow a fish, it would fall out and end up on the ground, CBS4’s News Partner the Miami Herald reports. Sharpe caught the bird and soon discovered what was ailing the bird.

“It looked like the pelican’s throat had been cut with a knife,” Sharpe told the paper. And, the paper reports, it was not just one clean slice, but two cuts about six inches apart, creating a large hole in the pouch.

But, sadly, that one pelican wasn’t the only one affected. Maya Totman, director of Florida Keys Wildlife Rescue, said she’s received reports of about seven other pelicans injured.

“We’ve seen a lot of ripped pouches, but never anything like this,” Totman told the paper.

While it is not exactly certain how the birds’ pouches were slashed, it is believed that the harm was done intentionally.

A pelican without its pouch would eventually starve to death.

Totman said that two of the pelicans were treated at the medical center in Miami and were then taken to the Exotic and Wild Bird Rescue of Florida Keys in Big Pine Key. One, Totman said, was released yesterday and another was to be released this morning.

Volunteers are searching for other injured pelicans.

The bird’s pouch, according to Veterinarian Don Harris, director of the Avian & Exotic Animal Medical Center in Miami, was cleanly lacerated about 10 inches from behind the point of the beak, all the way back to the glottis, the paper reports.

Totman drove the birds to Harris who performed the surgery.

On Sunday, the paper reports, a fisherman reported several live brown pelicans with similar lacerations near Venture Out resort on Cudjoe Key. When Totman arrived, around 6:30 am Wednesday and found a dead pelican with its throat slashed.

While Totman and others continue to be on the lookout for more injured pelicans, the question remains who or how they were mutilated in the first place.