Pelican deaths in CA – 07/19/2004

  • October 1, 2013 at 2:53 am #541

    Calif. Pelican Deaths Puzzle Wildlife Officials
    July 19, 2004

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – California’s endangered brown pelicans are
    mysteriously starving to death during a bumper year for anchovies,
    their preferred prey, wildlife officials said.

    Hundreds of the ungainly sea birds appear to have flown off course in
    search of food during their annual migration from the Baja California
    peninsula to British Columbia, with young pelicans turning up in
    Arizona deserts, biologists said.

    Wildlife sanctuaries in California and Arizona have taken in scores
    of young birds found emaciated and injured over the past month, but
    veterinarians have been unable to link their plight to disease or

    “They are starving but we do think there are plenty of anchovies,”
    said Judy St. Leger, a veterinarian at San Diego’s SeaWorld aquatic
    animal park. “It is an unusual and very extraordinary event.”

    The large, grayish-brown sea bird with the pouched bill was
    threatened with extinction in the 1970s because of the introduction
    of the pesticide DDT. It is still listed as endangered, according to
    the California Department of Fish and Game.

    Naturalist Sandy Cate of the Arizona Game and Fish Department said
    the phenomenon appears linked to an explosion in pelican numbers
    combined with changes in Pacific Ocean temperatures.

    “Anchovy can be going down deeper or out farther away than they might
    be normally,” Cate said. “By nature, animals do whatever it takes to
    find food, water and shelter. There is no food to sustain the numbers
    that were born this year.”

    Cate said the young birds may be mistaking interstate highways for
    waterways, which would explain why numbers of them have been found
    along roadways with broken wings or legs.

    SeaWorld has released about 10 of the 60 young pelicans it took in
    earlier in the month, but the facility is still trying to pin down
    the source of their distress, SeaWorld’s St. Leger said.

    “Right now we are trying to help the birds that are coming to us…
    and trying to give them a second chance,” she said.

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