Last month, a long-dead pigeon was one of eight animals who received an Animals in War and Peace Medal of Bravery award during a ceremony in Washington, D.C. The bird, named G.I. Joe, was credited with saving the lives of more than more than 100 allied soldiers during World War II, by flying more than 20 miles to deliver a message that stopped a planned bombing. A second pigeon, the late Cher Ami, was also honored with a posthumous award for her own message-delivering efforts during World War I.
Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, somebody is attaching miniature cowboy hats to a number of pigeons that are still very much alive. A Vegas resident named Bobby Lee posted a video of the birds and their tiny red hats to Facebook. "Fuckin' birds have hats on bro," he said in the clip. "What the fuck?"
A silent version of the video was shared on Twitter by Las Vegas Locally. "There are consequences to legalizing marijuana," it wrote. The pigeons were reportedly seen near Tropicana Avenue and Maryland Parkway in the city.
The replies ranged from "Old Town Road" content ("I got the pigeons in the back/Pigeon coop is attached") to (probably not serious) speculation about whether it had been done by the National Finals Rodeo, which is currently taking place in the city.
But many people were just concerned about the pigeons themselves, about whether the hats had been glued their heads, and whether or not the birds could be in any danger because of it.
A nonprofit pigeon rescue called Lofty Hopes is trying to answer those questions—and it's trying to find the hat-wearing pigeons in the process. "We just know of the two pigeons that were seen in the video, two out of four," Mariah Hillman, the organization's co-founder told VICE. "But looking at that video, it has to be glue [keeping the hats on the birds' heads]. I don't see any string, so it has to be glue. That's just dumb."
Hillman said that she hoped the hats might've been attached with eyelash glue or some other kind of temporary adhesive, but the birds were spotted—with hats—on Monday afternoon, which makes her think that's not the case. "If the hats are still on, it's probably superglue," she said. "It's kind of crazy."
Hillman said that she's worried that the hats could affect the pigeons' ability to fly, or their bright colors could attract predators. She's also concerned that the birds could've been separated from their mates or their chicks by whoever force-hatted them. "They would've had to have trapped the pigeons to have done it," she said. "Pigeons mate for life, so if one was removed, this could be breaking up families or leaving babies to starve. Also, there's no way of knowing whether they were released back in the same area where they were caught."
This isn't the group's first pigeon search-and-rescue: Lofty Hopes has saved racing pigeons whose post-race plans would've otherwise included death, as well as rescuing cage-raised doves that have been released during wedding ceremonies and aren't equipped to survive in the wild. (It also takes in baby pigeons that have fallen from their nests, and feral pigeons that need to be rehabilitated.)
For now, she's just hoping that they can find the birds and remove the hats. "We can use oil to un-attach glue, like when a rat gets caught in a sticky trap," she said. "But then they have grease on them. It will probably take a while to get [the glue] off, whether they molt or we remove it."
Pigeons can be smart, loyal, brave—war heroes, even. But there's probably a reason they didn't have some kind of medal glued to their bodies while they were alive.