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Posted: 15th May 2024

California sees surge in cases of malnourished pelicans
Testing hasn't revealed any evidence of diseases that could be causing the surge.
Hundreds are being brought into rescue centres.

Animal rescue centres in the US state of California are seeing a surge in malnourished and injured brown pelicans needing treatment.

Since 20 April 2024, two centres run by Bird Rescue have seen more than 250 pelicans arrive. At least 40 per cent have had significant injuries.

Other local rescue centres have also reported significant numbers of pelicans being brought in.

Rebecca Duerr, Bird Rescue's director of research and veterinary science, said: “Most birds are coming in cold, emaciated and anaemic – essentially starving to death. Many of them are exhibiting severe injuries – especially from fishing hooks and line.”

Many of the pelicans have been found in unexpected locations away from their usual coastal habitats, including at a fire station in Malibu and a lake at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.

The situation is being assessed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, alongside the US Fish and Wildlife Service and local organisations.

Testing of birds being admitted to rescue centres has so far not revealed evidence of avian influenza or any other disease that could be causing the surge in cases. Postmortems are being carried out on birds which have died.

A similar situation occurred in California in 2022, when almost 800 malnourished pelicans were taken in by rescue centres. 394 of the birds went on to be successfully returned to the wild.

Image © Shutterstock

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