Influx of rescued pelicans in Calif.

August 1, 2008 7:43:17 PM PDT
There is a bit of a mystery off the California coast, this summer. It has to do with pelicans, and the large numbers of them that have been found in distress.

Sometimes, what appears to be the happy ending to a story is really just the beginning. In the case of three pelicans and three volunteers at Horseshoe Cove, it's the middle of something larger.

"We're getting more every day. They come in, every day," says volunteer Nancy Mix.

They come to the International Bird Rescue Research Center from much of California. Staff members like Monte Merrick have already seen plenty of action this year, including a disproportionate number of pelicans.

Almost all the birds have been young and hungry. And what is most surprising is their numbers. At this time last year, they had taken in six pelicans. This year they have 70.

"It could be a large number or birds, or a shortage, or both," says Monte Merrick from the international Bird Rescue Research Center.

It's both an anomaly and a mystery, because for pelicans, this has been a good breeding year. Not so for the environment, however. Not with manmade calamities and a changing climate.

Staffers at the rescue center insist, that by saving these birds, they are not counteracting natural selection.

"Pelicans are endangered or threatened because of human agencies, so even if these guys would have ordinarily world had failed, they don't have that world anymore because their population is already knocked down," says Merrick.

So, it's a whole lot of rehab for California's pelicans. We may not know, for years, whether this season's pelican struggle is part of nature, or a byproduct of man's effect on it. But, at least they're getting good results from the best of intentions.

And on Friday, three more birds were released back into the wild.


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