KEY WEST, Fla. — WARNING: The below images are graphic. Audience discretion is advised.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is warning the public not to feed wildlife -- and particularly not pelicans, which are particularly sensitive.
FWC shared a disturbing photo Monday of a juvenile brown pelican that died after being rescued and taken to Key West Wildlife Center.
The image shows a large tear in the bird's pouch. Although FWC did not say exactly what happened to that particular animal, pelicans are prone to similar health issues when they are fed by humans.
"Fish carcasses can get lodged in their pouches and sharp bones can even puncture them, preventing the pelican from being able to eat," FWC explained in a Facebook post. "Feeding can also change their natural behavior, making them dependent on people for food."
Feeding pelicans is illegal.
FWC urges anglers to discard fish carcasses and scraps in lidded trash cans or at their homes, rather than in the water.
Click here to learn more about efforts to protect birds in Florida.
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