The Cambrian

Some wounded pelicans on North Coast appear to have flown into power lines or been hit by cars

While facilities at Pacific Wildlife Care (PWC) in Morro Bay have been at or near capacity with sick and starving pelicans this winter, those large birds are struggling –and dying in significant numbers –on the northern part of the North Coast of the county as well.

PWC volunteer Russ Ferriday located 16 dead pelicans along Highway 1 near Piedras Blancas on Feb. 8. The birds, according to Ferriday, were found “along a relatively short distance where a power line runs closest to the beach.”

Ferriday noted that most of the dead pelicans had fallen within five or so meters of the power lines. “So it’s pertinent to ask,” he stated, “whether Hearst Ranch and PG&E could be convinced to increase the conductor spacing on the power lines.”

Last week a reporter photographed an electrocuted pelican that was hanging in a morbidly ugly scene — from a power line just north of the elephant seal colony. A few days later PWC volunteer Marcelle Bakula came upon several grossly disfigured pelicans near Piedras Blancas that had possibly been hit by a vehicle.

Volunteers have also recently responded to a pair of injured pelican reports near the elephant seals; in both cases the birds had serious compound wing fractures.

No matter the cause, when the break is that serious the remedy is to have the pelican euthanized. Leaving it huddled along the beach wall in severe pain, knowing it will die a slow death from starvation, is not an option. In both cases the birds were captured, placed in a large cardboard box (covered with blankets so the terrified bird can be calmed) and driven to veterinarians to be euthanized.

The caring professionals at Coast Veterinary Clinic and Atascadero Pet Hospital and Emergency Center have donated their services in these cheerless instances. PWC relies on their staffs when healing a pelican is beyond the realm of possibility.

At Morro Bay on Feb. 3, the vet’s assistant lifted a terribly injured pelican from my cardboard box with the skill and tenderness a mother would employ with an infant.

“Come now sweetie,” she said. “Let’s go inside.”

— John FitzRandolph, special to The Cambrian