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'Drunken' pair wanted in ostrich's violent death
November 07, 2006, 12:00 AM By Dana Yates

Gaylord was killed on Halloween.

Two young men could be arrested today on felony animal cruelty charges for fatally shooting a 300-pound ostrich seven times at a Half Moon Bay ranch on Halloween morning.

The 19- and 20-year-old men allegedly confessed to the ostrich’s owner Sunday that they shot the 10-year-old bird in self defense while trespassing on the private property. Owner Karen Schmidt turned the information over to the Sheriff’s Office, which continues to investigate the case.

The names of the two are not being released since they have yet to be arrested.

Sheriff deputies believe the ostrich, named Gaylord, was killed at approximately 1:40 a.m. Oct. 31 when a neighbor report hearing "several consecutive shots fired.” The next day seven shell casings belonging to a rifle and a shotgun were found next to the dead ostrich, said Lt. Lisa Williams of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

Schmidt checked on Gaylord and two other ostriches, Apple and Tomato, earlier that evening. She returned the next day to find Gaylord lying dead near the front gate, where he was nesting when she left the night before. The sight of her dead pet was devastating, Schmidt said.

"I was broken, the shell casings were right next him. I saw where he flailed around,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt, however, was determined to find out who shot a killed Gaylord, who she inherited about a year ago as a rescue animal. On Sunday, Schmidt posted reward fliers at coastside businesses — the local liquor store, hardware store and post office. Within a few hours of posting the flier, Schmidt received a call from the owner of the El Granada liquor store who reported that someone ripped down the flier. Schmidt called the other stores and heard the same story.

By Sunday night, Schmidt had a description of the culprit and the company car he was driving. She paid a visit to the Princeton company and determined the business owner’s son was driving the car on Sunday. Within an hour, she was sitting down with father, his son and the son’s friend. The young men immediately apologized and volunteered to do anything to rectify the situation — including buying a new ostrich, Schmidt said.

Schmidt said they told her they were drinking at a party earlier in the evening when they decided to leave and check out the nearby ostriches. The two climbed the fence and quickly encountered Gaylord sleeping near the front gate, Schmidt said they told her.

Ostriches have poor night vision. Gaylord was startled and immediately charged toward the two intruders — breaking two ribs on one man and severely scratching the arm of the other, Schmidt said they told her.

Fearing for their safety, the two repeatedly shot Gaylord and left, Schmidt said they told her.

Schmidt didn’t turn their names over to the Sheriff’s Office until Monday afternoon, after she had enough time to decide whether to allow their punishment to be decided by the legal system. In the end, she thought it was important they deal with the real-life consequences of their decision, she said.

"Everyone is super sorry when they’re caught,” Schmidt said.” They were angry and killed. They need to get some help and direction.”

Schmidt called one boy’s father yesterday and suggested the two turn themselves in. She insists she doesn’t want them to go to jail.

"I want people to know who people are who can do something like this,” Schmidt said. "Maybe this can deter anyone from doing something else like this.”

Schmidt is relocating the two remaining ostriches to a ranch with a residence so there is 24-hour surveillance. In the meantime, the Sheriff’s Office continues its  investigation.


Dana Yates can be reached by e-mail: dana@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106. What do you think of this story? Send a letter to the editor: letters@smdailyjournal.com.


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