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2022-2024 News Releases

High Number of California Brown Pelicans Show Signs of Malnutrition
  • May 10, 2024
pelicans in rehab

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has received increased reports of California brown pelicans, a federally protected species, stranded along the coast from Santa Cruz County south to San Diego County, since late April. Central and Southern California wildlife rehabilitation facilities began admitting an unusually high number of debilitated pelicans as reports were received.

The pelicans exhibit characteristics of emaciation, and some have secondary injuries. CDFW along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), wildlife rehabilitation facilities and other state partners are coordinating to assess the ongoing situation.

CDFW is conducting postmortem examinations and testing pelicans admitted to wildlife rehabilitation facilities. Preliminary results indicate that pelicans are succumbing to starvation related problems.

Stranding events have been documented to occur periodically along the California coast in a variety of seabird species. A similar pelican stranding event occurred in spring 2022 with nearly 800 pelicans admitted into wildlife rehabilitation facilities and 394 successfully returned to the wild.

Officials ask the public not to touch, harass, attempt to feed or take photographs with pelicans. Do not attempt to remove any fishing lines or embedded fishing hooks from entangled birds.

CDFW and agency partners will continue to track this stranding event.

How Can the Public Help?

Report an injured or debilitated pelican:

Report a dead pelican:

  • Residents can report dead wildlife to CDFW’s Wildlife Health Laboratory using the mortality reporting form, which helps biologists monitor the event- please include photos if possible.

Support a local Wildlife Rehabilitation Facility:

  • Contact permitted facilities intaking brown pelicans directly for how to best assist.


Media Contacts:
Tim Daly, CDFW Communications, (916) 201-2958
Heather Perry, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 358-0729
Jane Hendron, USFWS Public Affairs Specialist
Vanessa E Morales, USFWS Bilingual Communications Specialist

Categories: Marine, Wildlife Health

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