Left picture: Steve Power photo
Right picture: Astoria Wildlife Center, sick pelicans
Oregon Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) biologists are asking the public to please stop feeding the birds. Especially brown pelicans who have been lingering on the coast being battered by the weather instead of happily breeding in sunny southern California and northern Baja. ODFW says they’ve seen a trend of the pelicans lingering longer in the season with large mass gatherings near the mouth of the Columbia River.
Biologists say while they can’t quite figure out why they haven’t headed south, they do say that it’s taking its toll on their population. Because pelicans don’t sleep overnight in the water, they have to find a safe perch on land. Their large webbed feet are prone to frostbite which deteriorates their webbing to the point they can’t walk or swim. Those brought into local wildlife centers by good hearted people soon learn that there is little that can be done for some of them except to be put down.
ODFW says people feeding the birds only make matters worse. They say it creates a dependency behavior that all too often leads to death. Not only are they tempted to stay north for the winter, but their digestive systems are badly upset by potato chips and popcorn. Biologists say such food actually weakens them. Those that manage to keep flying are not as agile as they should be as they skim the ocean waves for fish. Many get caught in the grip of a collapsing wave and are washed ashore injured, leaving them stranded and begging for more junk food.
ODFW recommends that anyone finding a weak or sick pelican on the beach to call the Astoria Wildlife Center at 503-338-0331.