Australian black swans watch over their three cygnets at the Pioneer Park Aviary in April 2020. The swans were brought to the aviary last year from Florida. Swans and peacocks are among the birds killed in multiple break-ins at the aviary in the last 10 days, city officials report.

WALLA WALLA, Wash. — The Walla Walla Police Department is seeking information to help identify who is breaking into the Pioneer Park Aviary and killing birds.

About 12 birds have been killed over the last 10 days, the city of Walla Walla has reported. The deaths — and cuts in the netting from a person or people gaining entry — have been discovered by aviary caretakers, said Walla Walla Parks & Recreation Director Andy Coleman.

“We hope we can discover who did it,” Coleman said. “Our plan will be to take some measures to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Coleman said the victim birds have included swans and peacocks. He estimated the value from a few thousand to $5,000 for replacement.

He did not know exactly how the birds were killed.

The efforts to harm the aviary and its resident birds is even more egregious given how much work went into saving the special feature of Walla Walla’s crown jewel park, Coleman said.

After severe storm damage to the netting and poles at the start and end of 2008, rebuilding the facility almost didn’t happen. The city at the time said it couldn’t justify improvements if long-term funds weren’t in place for daily operations.

So a group of residents formed the Friends of the Pioneer Park Aviary and embarked on an extensive campaign to save the bird sanctuary that was first started on a smaller scale around 1980 by the Walla Walla Valley Lionesses Club.

The aviary is owned by the city and its mission “is to provide an entertaining and educational exhibit of waterfowl and land-dwelling birds in a display that reflects their existence in a quality, ‘natural’ environment,” according to the aviary website.

The Friends group raised $119,000 to keep the facility operating for two years. And then another $230,000 was combined with city insurance claims from storm damage to fully fund an approximately $381,000 single enclosure reconstruction. The final cost for the new facility, which was finished in 2016, was $410,000, according to reports at the time.

“Certainly, when we lose birds our hearts hurt for the community,” Coleman said.

“People of all ages get attached to the birds out there.”

The police department is asking residents nearby to check their surveillance footage to help identify potential suspects.

Coleman said cameras could be the next step at Pioneer Park with the Walla Walla City Council already poised to consider them at Washington Park.

Anyone with information can contact the Walla Walla Police Department at 509-527-1960.

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