Following two weeks of care and rehabilitation, seven brown pelicans have been released back into their native habitat – near the rookery at Snell Isle in the waters of Coffee Pot Bayou.
“I’m happy with that,” said Kris Porter with Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife.
Porter and her team of rescuers were responsible for nursing the sick pelicans back to health after almost 70 birds were found sick or dead near the site of a fish kill earlier this month in a retention pond near Riviera Bay located close to the pelican’s breeding colony at Snell Isle. That rookery is also home to hundreds of birds who have exhibited no ill effects since the initial discoveries.
Warning signs were posted by the city of St. Petersburg on Jan. 15 as a precaution, while scientists took water samples and studied potential causes of the avian sickness. The signs were later removed as water quality test results were found to be well within the accepted parameters for recreational use.
Studies by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Arcadis, an independent firm hired by the city, continue. Those results are expected within the week. So far, tests have ruled out a number of possibilities, but no specific reason has been found.
Porter, who has more than 40 years’ experience working with wildlife and wildlife rescues, says while the pelican deaths may actually be from natural causes, the nearby fish kill and red tide caused by the cold weather inversion, may also be factors.
“It seems that we see pelican issues every January, but I’m just happy to have these birds better,” Porter said.
More information will be released when results of toxicology and in-depth water testing are finalized.