AMERICAN FORK — Birds beware: Don't get in the way of high school football.
A pheasant that interrupted the American Fork High football game Friday reportedly met a violent end after officials had trouble shooing it off the field.
Spectators said it appeared as if a man on Viewmont's side of the field kicked the bird and stomped it to death. Police are investigating the incident.
"It was horrible," said Ron Perry, who watched the scene unfold. "It was just horrible. It was a defenseless little pheasant that didn't have all its tail feathers and couldn't fly well."
The referee called a timeout when the bird sauntered onto the field, and officials, aided by a few players, struggled to get ahold of it.
One player tried to pick the pheasant up, Perry said, but it was too quick.
The game had been on hold for about five minutes when the bird fluttered over to the sideline.
The crowd booed as they watched the bird's unmoving body scraped off the field, said Matt Mayne, 40, who attended the game with his two children.
"I think we were all pretty shocked," he said. "I was thinking, 'Whoa, where did that come from?"'
Viewmont Head Coach Robbie Gunter said he was focused on figuring out the next play so he didn't get a clear view of the scuffle.
It appeared as if the pheasant jumped onto a man who may have stumbled over the bird, he said.
"I don't think anybody purposely stomped a bird," he said. "I would have heard about it if something like that happened."
Gene Baierschmidt, director of the Humane Society of Utah, said he was "outraged" when he heard about the bird's treatment.
"Pheasants are fast, but there's still no excuse for its death," he said. "I'm sure they could have cornered the bird somehow."
Ideally, Baierschmidt said the school should have called animal control, who would have used nets to snare the bird.
"I hope charges are filed and he receives maximum punishment under the law," he said.
Aggravated cruelty to an animal is a class A misdemeanor.