CLEARWATER -- An Illinois man was arrested Wednesday on a felony animal cruelty charge for striking a seagull twice with an umbrella pole on Clearwater Beach, according to police.
Ryan Lesle, 21, told officers that he was trying to disperse a flock of seagulls and connected with one bird by striking it on the left wing, according to an arrest affidavit. Lesle said he struck the seagull again to "take it out of it's misery", according to the report. A veterinarian had to euthanize the bird. A Clearwater Beach lifeguard witnessed part of the incident near Pier 60 and called police. Lesle initially took off running but later returned to the scene and admitted to the crime, according to police.
Barbara Walker with the Clearwater Audubon Society said seagulls swarm beach goers because people either leave food out or purposely feed the birds.
"I could say it a hundred times over, do not feed the birds, do not feed the birds," she said. "It will create unwanted behavior."
Chiron Williams, 22, traveled from Land O' Lakes to Clearwater Beach on Thursday and said tourists feeding seagulls is a problem.
"They just swarm everywhere and they (tourists) don't understand that causes chaos for everybody," she said. "It frustrates people that actually live here and already know how to handle all the seagulls."
Walker said it's against the law to kill any wild bird and if one is accidentally injured help should be sought out immediately.
"I understand he was not from this area but he could have sought local help nearby," said Walker. "It sounds like a very poor choice was made."
Lesle was released from the Pinellas County jail Thursday on a $5,000 surety bond. Bay News 9 called Lesle's cell phone but was unable to reach him for comment.