What looked like a frightening case of animal mutilation in Pottawatomie County has turned out after investigation to be only the work of a thoughtless hunter. The bodies of at least fifty large birds were found dumped in a ditch off a road outside Council Bluffs last week, bloodied and a few with necks damaged or heads missing. Deaprtment of Natural Resources conservation officer Andrea Bevington says the animals were hunted legally. The Fish & Wildlife Service has a conservation order because there are too many snow geese, allowing a hunting season from January through the middle of this month with no “bag limit,” and she explains you could have gone out every day from January 12th until last Thursday and shot 20 of the birds each day. She says there’s an overpopulation right now of the large white waterfowl, which are a bit smaller than Canada geese. She says they’ve eaten themselves out of the home they’re flying to now, up in the Arctic, and so when they’re passing through federal regulators encourage states to let their hunters shoot as many as possible, so they don’t destroy the habitat for themselves and other wildlife. But nobody knew that when some fifty bird carcasses were found discarded last week, in various stages of decomposition. She’s found the hunter and given him a littering citation — and Bevington says it wasn’t a case of animal cruelty or poaching, just a mistake in improperly disposing of the geese during hunting season. Bevington was asked if they couldn’t have given the birds to a food pantry, the way hunters have started doing with venison from deer they hunt. She says some hunters will smoke the breast or make jerky from the geese, but this one apparently thought dumping his unwanted catch in the countryside would let coyotes or other wild animals dispose of them, but she says that’s not the proper way to do it. The animal-advocate group PETA had put out a rew2ard for information as to what had happened and where all the dead birds came from. Bevington says early reports that some were decapitated apparently stemmed from the hunter’s practice of wringing the necks of birds that were shot but not quite dead.