The Coast News Group
The California brown pelican was once on the endangered species list but made a huge comeback. Recently, these birds have been dying from an unknown cause. Photo by Mier Cat Photography
The California brown pelican was once on the endangered species list but made a huge comeback. Recently, these birds have been dying from an unknown cause. Photo by Mier Cat Photography
Carlsbad Cities Del Mar Encinitas Environment Oceanside Region San Diego Solana Beach

California wildlife officials puzzled by sick and dying brown pelicans

REGION — Since approximately May 13, California brown pelicans found emaciated and frequently with secondary injuries or broken wings have been admitted to several Southern and Central California wildlife rehabilitation facilities from San Luis Obispo County to San Diego County.

Many of these birds, which play an important role in the Pacific Coast ecosystem feeding on northern anchovy, Pacific sardine and mackerel, died shortly after arrival at a facility.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), local wildlife rehabilitation facilities and other state partners are coordinating to assess the ongoing situation.

State Fish and Wildlife is conducting postmortem examinations on pelicans that have been brought into rehabilitation facilities. Results indicate that pelicans are succumbing to starvation-related problems.

Currently, there are no indications of disease or unusual parasites. CDFW is unable to provide information on the underlying cause of this event at this time.

California Brown Pelican
California wildlife rehabilitation facilities have been admitting hundreds of California brown pelicans. Courtesy photo

For your safety — and that of the birds — state and federal wildlife officials and rehabilitation experts ask residents not to touch, attempt to feed or take photographs with the birds. Do not attempt to remove fishing lines or embedded fishing hooks from entangled birds as this may cause further injury.

Residents can help by reporting an injured or sick pelican to a local wildlife rehabilitation facility and messaging the Wildlife Health Laboratory at [email protected], San Diego County – SeaWorld San Diego Rescue team: (800) 541-7325 or [email protected]

This species was listed as federally endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1970 due to the impacts of the pesticide, DDT. After the chemical was banned, brown pelicans made a remarkable recovery and were removed from the endangered species list in 2009.

Wildlife officials have said they will continue to track this unusual event.

Leave a Comment