Wildlife rescuers say large numbers of starving young pelicans are turning up on local beaches, but this upsetting phenomenon might just be part of the natural order of things.
The pelicans appear thin and weak, and are walking up to people, said Rebecca Dmytryk, a spokeswoman for WildRescue, a Moss Landing-based nonprofit.
While it may be distressing to watch, Dmytryk said this is probably part of a normal natural die-off, or "survival of the fittest." Not all the young birds can or should be saved, she said.
"Should we intervene? It's a tough call!" Dmytryk said in a written statement. "It's certainly upsetting to see a starving baby pelican on the beach, but are we doing the species a disservice if we take in all the weak ones?"
Resources for bird rescues are limited, and the nearest center, in Cordelia, is already overrun with young pelicans who cost a great deal to feed, Dmytryk said.
Members of the public who see an injured or ill-looking pelican should noted the color of the head, then call WildRescue's hotline at 1 (866) WILD-911. Keep people and dogs away from the birds, which are protected by federal law.
WildRescue will rescue as many birds as resources allow, with adult birds being given the priority, Dmytryk said.
While the brown pelican population was once threatened to near extinction, it has now rebounded.
Anyone interested in volunteeing to help rescue pelicans or help transport them, should go to WildRescue.org. Volunteers are needed in Santa Cruz, San Jose and San Francisco.