DFG Biologists Determine Cause of Pelican Deaths and Injuries

Media Contacts:
Todd Tognazzini, DFG Law Enforcement, (805) 610-3916
Andrew Hughan, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8944

Department of Fish and Game (DFG) biologists say that sea lions are responsible for a number of recent pelican deaths in the San Luis Obispo area.

Residents and local law enforcement have been finding the carcasses of California Brown Pelicans along the beaches for the past few days. More than a dozen of the large aquatic birds have been injured or killed by large puncture wounds.

Several of the birds were sent to a DFG marine research laboratory in Santa Cruz and necropsy results show that the wounds were caused by sea lions attacking and biting the birds.

DFG game wardens have noticed an increase in the numbers of small “bait fish” very near the shores and beaches in the San Luis harbor area recently. The abundant fish attract both sea lions and birds, and officials believe the sea lions are attacking the birds that get in the way while they are feeding .

Wardens interviewed one eyewitness, a kayaker, who said he saw a sea lion grab a pelican and drag it underwater before releasing it with a bite wound.

Animal rehabilitation facilities report this is not unusual behavior for marine mammals and similar injuries have been seen in other areas coastal regions throughout the state.


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