Investigations into the widespread death and illness of local pelicans in recent months have found that higher-than-normal levels of a naturally occurring toxin may be the source of their ailments.
The International Bird Rescue Research Center has reported a higher than normal “die off” of adult pelicans on the Pacific west coast this year, as well as conditions indicating illness in the population. The center sites numerous incidents of disorientation – birds landing inland, being found in neighborhoods and roads, and flying far from their normal migratory patterns – that may indicate a neurological problem.
A press release issued from the IBRRC last week reported that three out of six birds sampled tested positive for domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxin that has been known to adversely affect the health of pelican populations. According to Heather Nevill, the IBRRC’s veterinarian leading the group’s pelican investigation, domoic acid may not be solely responsible for birds’ failing health.
“We believe these results are significant but do not explain all the signs we are seeing in the pelicans,” she said. “We are seeing a number of conditions that are not typical of domoic acid toxicity or a domoic acid event. Therefore we are continuing to collect samples, keeping an open mind and considering all possibilities.”
So far, the IBRCC has recorded 265 dead and ailing pelicans from Baja California, Mexico to Washington State, with at least 100 of the birds receiving treatment. Additional blood and tissue samples conducted over the next two weeks are expected to provide further insight into the causes of these illnesses and deaths.
Reporting a sick or dead wild animal
Readers may be interested to know that they can report a sick or dead pelican (or other wildlife for that matter) by calling the California Wildlife Hotline (http://www.wildrescue.org/) at 866-WILD-911 or the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network (http://www.sbwcn.org/) at (805) 966-9005.
good to know!
Thanks for telling readers where they can report it… I actually saw a dead pelican on the beach a few days ago and wanted to do something about it but didn’t know who to contact… now I do!