Are California brown pelicans endangered? Fish & Game Commission says no (and it wants them off the list)


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In a unanimous vote, the California Fish & Game Commission decided to remove the California brown pelican from the state endangered species list. Our colleague Kelly Burgess at the Outposts blog has the details:

‘Every Californian should be proud of this landmark decision,’ commission President Cindy Gustafson said in a news release. ‘This is a story of magnificent success. In the 38-year history of our protection of endangered species under the act, the California brown pelican is the first species to fully recover. We hope to have many more.’ The delisting recommendation made to the commission by Department of Fish and Game biologists is based on studies showing an increased breeding population of brown pelicans on West Anacapa Island in the Channel Islands, where there are now an estimated 8,500 breeding pairs. This is the only area in California where these birds nest.


The announcement from the Fish & Game Commission comes shortly after many brown pelicans were found disoriented, exhausted and with bruised pouches, often miles from their normal coastal haunts. The reason for the pelicans’ plight is still a mystery, but the Monterey County Herald reports:

A leading theory is that a warming global climate and abundant food caused about 4,000 pelicans to remain in Oregon and Washington months past when they normally would have migrated south. Then many of the birds got caught in record-freezing December temperatures, stressing their bodies and leaving them without food supplies.

The state’s Office of Administrative Law will have to review the commission’s decision before the pelicans can officially be delisted.

--Lindsay Barnett