MOVE over Ned Kelly – there’s a new thief in town and he’s not afraid to commit brazen, daylight robbery along Mildura’s riverfront.
Sunraysia Daily reported last month pelicans were stealing food from the hands of innocent picnickers along the river, with council and cafes issuing warnings to the public not to feed the pesky birds.
This week, one big, brash bird took his thieving a step further and stole a Mildura woman’s purse from under her nose, dropping it into the mighty Murray never to be seen again – just three days before she heads off on an overseas holiday.
Mildura woman Lauren Cruse said the moment she and a friend laid down their picnic rug to enjoy lunch on Wednesday afternoon, a pod of aggressive pelicans descended.
“It was instantaneous,” Ms Cruse said.
“They walked straight up to us without hesitating at all, so my friend threw half a sausage roll in the opposite direction to where we were to distract them so we could get away.
“We moved up to the other side of the footpath, thinking they wouldn’t follow us up that high.”
But the pesky pelicans walked across the footpath and, having tasted food, wanted more from the women, who at this point, were “pretty terrified.”
“My friend grabbed our lunch and started backing away from them, but she tripped over the gutter. Meanwhile, I was screaming and these birds were just coming closer and closer towards us,” Ms Cruse said.
“There was a man who was walking nearby and he said to me, ‘If you front up to them, they’ll leave you alone’, so I put on my bravest face and was trying to scare them off, but this massive pelican just opened its mouth and started gawking and screeching in my face.”
It was then the women realised they had fled with the food – but had left the picnic rug, complete with handbags, purses, phones and keys, behind.
“I ran over and grabbed the end of the rug and tried to roll it up without stuff inside it, while this giant pelican was on the opposite end of the rug,” Ms Cruse said.
“Suddenly, he just launched over and just scooped my wallet up.”
The chase was on as Ms Cruse bolted after the thieving bird, who was heading across the grass for the water.
“I thought surely he’d drop my wallet on the grass somewhere before he got to the river, so I was chasing after him – but he just jumped right in the water with my wallet still in his mouth,” she said.
“I was shocked – my friend and I just stood at the edge of the water completely stunned, like ‘What the hell just happened? Did a pelican really just take my wallet’?”
All hopes for the safe return of the wallet were dashed when Ms Cruse saw the bird open its mouth and her wallet plunged to the bottom of the river.
“For a minute, I thought about jumping in after it,” she said.
“All I was thinking was, ‘I’m going overseas, I need my ID and bank card’ – but it was well and truly gone.
“My friend and I were in disbelief, just laughing, crying and swearing all at the same time.”
While a replacement bank card and ID will not arrive before she heads off on holidays, Ms Cruse said she had made alternative arrangements.
This story appears in Friday's Sunraysia Daily 16/08/2019. To subscribe to our Digital Edition Click here