Hello Dr. Doug -- I hope all is well in the Keys. We are really enjoying living in wine country and I am enjoying working with wildlife in northern California. I work for the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek and they keep me busy! More than 5,000 patients per year. I have been following recent posts on the Key West Wildlife Center's Facebook page regarding pelican feeding. Once again, folks are feeding carcasses to pelicans and I know you are aware of all the problems that can cause. Last year I asked you if you'd post a column written by Florida Fish and Wildlife regarding pelican feeding. If you haven't again already, would you consider rerunning the article once more in Solares Hill? I'm sure the wildlife centers throughout the keys would appreciate it and most of all the pelicans would be thankful! Thanks much.
A. Great to hear from you, Michelle, and a good idea to rerun Rodney Baretto's column. (I had to remove a large hook from a pelican just the other day....):
Don't Feed the Pelicans. We're still seeing the effects of brown pelicans becoming dependent on throw-away fish and fish scraps. Florida Fish and Wildlife staff and other experts worry about the overall health of brown pelican populations; the commission passed a rule in 2008 to stop the feeding of large numbers of pelicans. The activities no longer permitted under this rule include:
• Dumping or discharging large amounts of fish scraps, bycatch or comparable materials from a fish house or similar facility. This attracts large numbers of pelicans to that area and causes changes in their behavior. By indirectly feeding pelicans, such large-scale activities can have a detrimental effect on a brown pelican population by inhibiting migration and leading to cold-weather-induced illness and injury.
• Individuals or groups feeding large numbers of pelicans at regular places and times. This does not apply to feeding pelicans that are captive or under care at places such as a rehabilitation facility.
• Anglers tossing scraps at public fishing piers and beaches. Public piers that attract large numbers of fishermen may want to consider creating scrap chutes, where folks can dump the abundant leftovers to keep them away from pelicans. The intent of this rule is not to regulate the occasional or the casual feeding of individual pelicans. The rule provides an enforcement tool to resolve situations where large-scale feeding could negatively influence the health or survival of a pelican.
You can help keep pelican populations healthy by not feeding them. If available, use fish-scrap repositories at piers and docks. If they are not available, discard your fish scraps in a garbage can or at home.
Your efforts will help to keep pelican populations healthy and wild. Please don't feed them.
Dr. Mader is an ABVP board certified veterinary specialist practicing in the Keys. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.