on February 04, 2016 at 3:19 PM
As many as 35 brown pelicans have been found dead on Grand Isle in the past two weeks, prompting an investigation by scientists with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. They've dismissed suspicions that the birds were shot but have yet to determine the cause of death.
The dead pelicans were first reported to the Grand Isle Police Department, which asked state officials to investigate. "In the wintertime, we always get some calls about dead pelicans, but this seems to be an extraordinary amount," said Cheryl McCormack, secretary to Police Chief Euris DuBois. "We're alarmed about the number of them."
The brown pelican, Louisiana's state bird, was removed from the federal list of endangered and threatened species in 2009, but it is still protected under federal law. The birds had largely vanished from Louisiana's coast by the mid-1960s, after exposure to the pesticide DDT resulted in too-fragile eggshells.
More than 1,200 pelicans were imported from Florida in 1968. But the time of delisting, there were more than 12,000 breeding pairs in Texas and Louisiana.
Several dead brown pelicans collected by the Grand Isle Police Department in recent days have been turned over to wildlife officials, and others were being collected on Wednesday (Feb. 3) for testing, said Michael Seymour, a non-game ornithologist with Wildlife and Fisheries. He said there have been several estimates of the number of dead birds, including 14 along several miles of beaches and 20 in a single mile of beach. A survey by a Wildlife and Fisheries employee found 15 or more birds over several miles.