Sea lions may be culprits in pelican deaths at Port San Luis

In fierce competition for baitfish, mammals may be tearing up big birds and killing them

dsneed@thetribunenews.comAugust 30, 2011 

Nature’s battle for survival played out in dramatic fashion off Avila Beach when sea lions attacked some pelicans who were trying to feed on schooling fish.

State Department of Fish and Game wardens think sea lions may be responsible for a rash of pelican deaths at Port San Luis last week. Fifteen brown pelicans died after receiving severe chest wounds.

Warden Sean Kenady said a kayaker saw a sea lion repeatedly pull a pelican under water until it failed to resurface. The department also got an email from the animal rescue group, Wild Rescue, which said its members had seen that behavior in the past.

“It looks like that’s the most probable explanation,” Kenady said.

Wardens think the injuries occurred when both animals were in a feeding frenzy on baitfish, with the pelicans feeding from above and the sea lions from below. The sea lions may have attacked the pelicans because they were competing for the same food source.

Wardens are awaiting the results of necropsies on the pelicans, which may determine the exact cause of death, Kenady said.

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