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Santa Cruz Sentinel
July 24, 2009

Researchers find remains of apparent animal sacrifices at Elkhorn Slough

by Donna Jones

ELKHORN SLOUGH -- A student volunteer helping with shark research at Elkhorn Slough discovered something a bit more grisly, a makeshift blood-spattered shrine.

"There were mutilated chickens, and candles," said Matt Metzger, 17. "I'm from North Carolina, and I don't see that a lot."

Metzger, a high school student, is spending 10 days in California, working with Sean Van Sommeran and the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation. The team was surveying sharks and rays near Kirby Park on Monday when Metzger climbed a small ridge to take photographs of the shoreline where the work was being done.

"I kept smelling something dead and kept following it until I found the chickens," he said.

Van Sommeran said researchers went on to find several sites -- some appearing to be more recent than others -- that contained candles with religious and skeletal images, chicken feet and heads, and beer and whiskey bottles. Similar debris was found on the beach, apparently scattered by tides.

"It was a gross scene," Van Sommeran said. "It's animal cruelty and a waste of food. They just murdered the chickens."

Ken Collins, a land steward with the Elkhorn Slough Foundation, said he had only seen photographs of the sites, but said the find was unique, though workers occasionally find goat carcasses by the road around Christmas, possibly the leftovers from holiday meals.

"We've never found anything so religious and violent on our properties," Collins said, adding he wasn't sure if "religious was the appropriate word."

He said besides the obvious issue of animal rights, the worst thing about the chicken sites was the garbage left behind. He said he'd be responsible for the cleanup and hoped those responsible would move on now that their handiwork has come to light.

"Maybe the individual ... will take it to his room or her room and not do it on other people's property," Collins said.


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Chicken feet and heads were found along with blood-spattered... (Matt Metzger/Contributed photo)



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