What prompted a man to assault a seagull on an Ocean City beach?

Seagulls on an Asbury Park beach (Dan Corey, Townsquare Media NJ)

According to Philly.com, the unidentified man told Ocean City Police that the bird was pecking at his 2-year-old daughter's head as they sat on the 39th Street beach and he used a towel to swat the bird away, damaging its wing and causing it to fall into the ocean. The father didn't want his children to see the dead bird so he put the body in a trash can.

Witness Jolie Hess, however, describes a more vicious attack. “He takes a boogie board and he smacks it out of the air and breaks its wing and when it falls in the water he takes a towel and he snaps its neck and threw it in the trash can,” Hess told CBS Philly. Others who say they saw the incident say Ocean City Police would not do anything when the incident was brought to an officer's attention

Many witnesses took to social media to express their outrage at the incident. Officer Steven K. Ang told Philly.com that no witnesses reported the incident.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is investigating the incident. Spokesman Bob Considine notes that seagulls are protected by both state and federal law.  “Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, it’s illegal to kill, sell, purchase or possess migratory birds or their parts,” explained Considine