Dead Brown Pelicans Being Found Up and Down Calif. Coast

A Bay Area wildlife rescue organization Monday is investigating why an inordinate number of sick and deceased adult brown pelicans have been found along the California coast since Wednesday. Rebecca Dmytryk, who operates rescue nonprofit WildRescue with her husband Duane Titus, said more than 50 recently deceased adult brown pelicans have been recovered from San Diego to San Francisco. More than 60 other ailing pelicans have been rescued in the last five days, Dmytryk said. Dmytryk said she has been in contact with other organizations along the state's coastline in an effort to gather estimates on how many birds have been found. The numbers are likely underestimates, she said, as WildRescue has not heard back from everyone. Recommendations have been made to have the birds, listed as an endangered species since the 1970s, removed from the endangered species list since the banning of the chemical pesticide DDT improved the species' numbers, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. That process could take years, and the bird is still considered endangered, Dmytryk said. The discovery of ailing juvenile birds is expected this time of year, but the sudden discovery of thin, weak, disoriented adult brown pelicans is unusual, Dmytryk said. The disoriented birds have been found in agricultural fields, wooded streets and highways. The species is usually found in harbors, beaches and in wharf areas, according to Dmytryk. The water birds dive from the air into ocean waters for fishing, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. Domoic acid, a neurotoxin found in plankton that builds up in smaller animals such as anchovies that are then consumed by pelicans and other sea animals, is typically the cause of disorientation in pelicans. However, regular testing of coastal waters has not shown an increase in domoic acid, leaving rescuers without an explanation for the recent rash of pelican sickness and deaths. "What is raising concern is that we're finding the disoriented adults and no confirmation of domoic acid being present," Dmytryk said. "The last reports we know of, it's been absent or very low." WildRescue asks that anyone who finds a disoriented or deceased adult brown pelican call rescuers at (866) WILD-911. The birds are a gray-brown color with a white head and neck.

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