Along the West coast juvenile Brown Pelicans are flooding into rehabilitation centers and many more are dying on beaches and in bays and coves. At the end of June, as this years newly hatched birds made their way to the North coast, emaciated hatching year Brown Pelicans began coming into care here at Bird Ally X/Humboldt Wildlife Care Center from all of Humboldt and Del Norte counties.
Typically found disoriented no longer able to fly, initially this seemed like a normal occurrence – many juveniles don’t make it, and rehabilitators often provide supportive care for those who struggle, hoping to give them a second chance.
Since we’d already heard that our colleagues in Morro Bay had 20 young BRPE in care, we began to prepare for a similar influx. By July 4 we’d treated a half dozen. On the 7th and 8th, however we began to get calls from all over – by the 9th we had 12 in care.
9 July we received a call that several dead Brown pelicans were on Trinidad beach, perhaps as many as 12, and that there were a few sick looking birds that needed help. We went to investigate. I was very disheartened to see approximately 30 soaking wet HY pelicans in the water, on the rocks and on the fishing dock. We captured 9, took them to our facility at Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, and went back and captured another 9. The next day we captured 9 more.
As of now, we’ve captured 43 in Trinidad, as well as another 30 from around the North Coast.
But the situation has aspects even more grim. Witnesses in Crescent City have described ailing Pelicans (6 reported) being run down and killed with vehicles around the fish cleaning station.Department
12 July we sent a team to Crescent City to investigate the situation. Besides capturing 10 contaminated Pelicans, all juveniles, over 40 impacted birds were seen. Obvious contaminations occurred while they were there coming from the drain from a fish cleaning table that discharges into the harbor. Many birds were observed to have Salmon or Rockfish carcasses lodged deep in their pouches, after being fed by sport fishers.
We’ve also received reports of impacted birds on Gold Bluff beach, above Orick. This will be a difficult location to access without permission from the NPS, although we’ve been invited to go out there with a commercial smelt fisher who doesn’t want the fisheries to take the rap for these injured Pelicans. This person has described what is likely to be feather lice as the culprit, and also believes these pelicans are somehow “tame.” He described them as suicidally diving into rough surf and being thrashed to the beach. Other fishers have described Brown Pelicans attacking their boats and “stealing” their anchovies.
We expect to start washing these birds tomorrow here at HWCC. While we were initially prepared for the idea of 60-100 birds, the reality is that we already have 70 and reports lead us to believe that another 60 would be easy to capture. If so, our facility will certainly be taxed, although I do feel that with support we can make it work.
here’s a recap of the numbers…
BRPE admissions since 22 June 2012
Fort Bragg – 2
Petrolia – 1
unknown – 1
Humboldt bay area -25
Trinidad – 43
Orick – 3
Crescent City -21
Shelter Cove – 5
Our urgent needs to care for these Brown Pelicans:
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