Newport Beach animal control officers, who were inundated with more than 30 calls about starving or injured pelicans in the past three days alone, spent time this weekend working to find food to deliver to a care center, according to police.
“Saturday was the worst day,” said Animal Control Officer Valerie Schomburg. “Starting Thursday night, you picked one up here, one there. Then all of a sudden there were pelicans coming in everywhere. Saturday, they were just everywhere.”
The problem is a lack of food at the surface of the water, which forces the birds to dive deeper to obtain food, said Kathy Lowe, a Newport Beach Police Department spokeswoman, in an email. Some experts said that warmer ocean water has caused anchovies, which the pelicans eat, to retreat to colder, deeper water.
“While the older pelicans are more adept at this, the younger ones lack the ability to successfully complete this task,” Lowe said in an email.
As a result, some pelicans have been trying to nab food from fishing lines and are becoming tangled in the lines or being hooked, causing serious injuries.
For the past few weeks, birds have been appearing on Big Corona State Beach, at Crystal Cove, Balboa Island and other Peninsula beaches, Lowe said. Animal Control officers responding to the calls have taken the pelicans to the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach, where they are nursed to health and released into the wild.
The center, however, suffered a shortage in its food supply and was in danger of running out of food before its next delivery, Lowe said. When Animal Control officers found out, they began to research where to obtain food for the birds and managed to secure 200 pounds from the Newport Bait Barge.
“The Animal Control Officers picked up the anchovies from the Bait Barge and delivered them to the WWCC on Saturday afternoon, thereby insuring the injured animals would receive the proper care and hopefully recover completely from their injuries,” Lowe said.
WWCC Director Debbie McGuire, director of the WWCC did not immediately respond to a voice mail seeking comment, but Lowe said she had expressed gratitude to the Animal Control officers. Schomburg said the center was staffed with volunteers and would accept donations; call (714) 374-5587 for information on how to help.
Schomburg said she had taken 17 pelicans to the center. Other birds had died before she could help them, she said, and others needed to be euthanized.
Today, Schomburg said she had picked up just one pelican, from Big Corona State Beach.
Anyone who sees an injured or sick pelican should not touch the bird but call Animal Control at (949) 644-3717. Pelicans don’t groom when they are sick, and they carry lice, Schomburg said, so people should avoid getting near them.
The pelicans have been found in other cities, including San Clemente, Huntington Beach and even in backyards in Costa Mesa, Schomburg said. More than 100 have been treated since mid-June, according to an article that ran Friday in the Orange County Register; read that article here.
Photo courtesy of the Newport Beach Police Department.