The Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network released 12 recovered brown pelicans Friday afternoon at Butterfly Beach in Montecito.
It was the third group of pelicans to be released by the network following the influx of emaciated, hypothermic and dehydrated brown pelicans found in the Santa Barbara area as well as throughout the whole state of California.
The previous weekend, the Wildlife Care Network released a group of five pelicans at Butterfly Beach and another group of five at Goleta Beach, bringing the total number of birds released so far to 22. All have made a full recovery after receiving treatment for three to four weeks.
“Each one of these pelicans represents a concerned citizen who called us, who either they brought it on or one of volunteers who went to go pick it up, the 16 hours of care per day, lots and lots of fish, lots and lots of monitoring, lots of cleaning,” Executive Director Ariana Katovich said. “It really represents the success of our network.”
She added that another 12 pelicans are nearly ready for release as well.
The Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network has seen more than 270 sick brown pelicans rescued and brought in to its Wildlife Hospital in Goleta since mid-May. The birds were rescued after being found starving, dehydrated and hypothermic, with some coming in with additional injuries.
The influx of sick and injured brown pelicans was observed statewide, with the International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Wildlife Center reporting nearly 300 pelicans rescued and being treated at the center.
The cause of the crisis has yet to be determined, though the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is still investigating.
Katovich said the pelicans have been responding well to treatment, which has included providing fluids, food, medication, warmth and supportive care.
The network’s Goleta facility has about 45 pelicans still in its care.
“We’ve just observed that they’ve done really well when they get hydrated and given fish and when they gain weight, and they’re just healthier and have more energy,” Katovich told Noozhawk.
“The ones that are outside in our aviaries — which is where a vast majority of them are — they’re flying, they’re catching their own fish … and all of these birds are the ones that are flying strongly, and we know they ‘re waterproofed.”
Each pelican is thoroughly evaluated before being released in order to ensure they are healthy enough to rejoin the wild population, measuring the pelican’s body condition, feather quality and mentation.
Additionally, Katovich said that all of the pelicans have been banded for research, and she estimated that all or most of the pelicans should be released within the next couple of weeks, as long as everything continues to go well.
“We’re grateful for all the generosity that’s been coming in that helps support this work,” Katovich said. “We really couldn’t provide a safety net for wildlife without generosity from our community, and all the people that have volunteered and donated and continue to support Wildlife Care Network allows us to have these kinds of success stories.”
Community members who would like to support the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network can do so by volunteering or by donating at sbwcn.org/donate. Donations go toward the purchase of food, medication, fluids and additional supplies.
The Wildlife Care Network is also asking community members who see a sick or injured animal in Santa Barbara or Ventura counties to report it to the network’s hotline at 805-681-1080.