Pelicans are turning up malnourished along the Central Coast. Here’s what we know
Pacific Wildlife Care (PWC) in Morro Bay is asking people to call their hotline if they find a malnourished pelican in San Luis Obispo County.
They’re turning up in mysteriously high numbers right now along the Central and Southern California coasts.
As of Friday morning, Pacific Wildlife Care had taken in 36 pelicans in need of care since May 15.
“We are finding that pelicans are showing up malnourished, in very dazed states, which is a result from them not having enough to eat,” said Pacific Wildlife Care Executive Director Christine Johnson.
She said this is the highest number of malnourished pelicans they’ve seen since 2012 and it’s even worse in other areas along the coast.
“Our numbers here are much lower than what we’re seeing even just in Santa Barbara and Ventura County,” Johnson said.
Most of the pelicans are being found between Los Osos and San Simeon, although Johnson said some have even been found along Los Osos Valley Road near San Luis Obispo.
Johnson said the reason the pelicans aren’t eating enough is still unclear.
“It’s hard to know if the pelicans are just missing the fish that are available because they’re just unable for another reason to really be able to hunt and feed themselves," Johnson said. "These animals are perfectly capable to care for themselves at this age. So it’s a little bit of an unknown.”
Johnson said the reasons for the malnourishment may become more clear over the next couple of months when more data from other wildlife rehabilitation centers becomes available across the state.
She said right now, wildlife rehabilitators are just trying to get the birds cared for.
“Until we know really what’s causing it, it is in our best interest to try and heal them and get them back out,” Johnson said.
She said a pelican is in need of care if it is exhausted enough that it isn’t moving. Pacific Wildlife Care advises against approaching wildlife and instead asks people to call their hotline for help at (805) 543-9453.
Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network also said their pelican numbers are not slowing down and they are in need of additional volunteers and donations.
The group took in more than 140 birds between May 14 and May 19. That’s 30 more pelicans than they cared for in all of 2021.
If you find a malnourished pelican in Santa Barbara County, you can call (805) 681-1080.