St. Pete pelicans released back into the wild after weeks of rehabilitation

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – After nearly two weeks of rehabilitation, seven pelicans rescued from Coffee Pot Bayou in St. Petersburg are back in the wild.

They were among nearly seventy pelicans that were injured or dying in the area.

St. Petersburg’s Interim Water Resources Director John Palenchar said the city is still trying to figure out what caused the birds to get sick.

“We love our birds and we love our environment, and so we want to get to the bottom of this,” he said.

“If it’s a storm water issue, we want to find out what is causing poor water quality in that storm water pond, and we want to try and correct it.  If it’s a pollutant from yards or from nutrients, we want to find out what we can do to try and correct that problem.”

Several rescue organizations stepped in to treat the birds, including Urban Wildlife Center Inc, and Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife.

Ria Warner with Owl’s Nest said the pelicans had symptoms that workers and volunteers weren’t used to treating.

“So, they were treated for toxicity and red tide.  Several of them had symptoms that unfortunately, were not reversible, so they did not make it.”  said Warner.  “They were being tube fed three times a day, and then once they were a little stronger, they were assessed and fed whole fish.”

Right now, the city is waiting on test results to figure out what caused the sickness.

Pelicans generally occupy saltwater habitats and there is a freshwater pond not far from Coffee Pot Bayou.  If the birds were feeding there, that could explain why they became ill.

“They believe the source of the disease maybe Tilapia, which is a species that is kind of a bottom feeding species,” said Palenchar.  “They could have an infection within them or be carriers of this avian botulism, so that’s the line of research that our consultants are currently trying to investigate.”

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