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LA Rain So Polluted Pelicans Have to Be Treated Like Oil Spill Victims

Brown pelicans, just removed from the Endangered Species List three months ago, are getting slammed by California’s polluted storms. These swimming birds can cope with rain far more gracefully than whiny Los Angelenos have been. But the water is so polluted that they have to be treated like oil spill victims. The International Bird Rescue Research Center had 80 pelicans by 7 p.m. Friday and expects they’ll be treating 100 hypothermic birds this weekend.

There’s a bit of callous reaction to the brown pelican‘s plight. One comment on the Washington Post site said it was just the “circle of life.” But they aren’t dying because of storms; they’re freezing because the contaminants break down their natural waterproofing and insulation.

“Brown pelicans tend to feed and congregate near harbors and river mouths where nutrients from the runoff attract fish and other creatures. Pelicans can easily become dirty from pollution in these areas and can lose their waterproofing. The current massive runoff from the storms has brought even more grease, car oil sheen, fish oils and other forms of surface pollution into the coastal areas where these birds feed,” says executive director Jay Holcomb in a letter to supporters.

“We wash them just as if there had been an oil spill. We use dish-washing liquid,” spokesman Paul Kelway told the AP. It takes about a week and $500 of treatment for the birds to recover from hypothermia. The center has responded to 150 oil spills around the world and treated 300,000 birds; 23 other groups in California are also trained to deal with oil spills and wildlife.

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