It is dangerous work, but despite the hazardous conditions there is a small cadre of volunteers that risk their lives to rescue stranded pelicans on a deadly valley roadway. Richard Moore takes us out with two local volunteers that are dedicated to saving lives.
When a Brown pelican goes down near the Gayman Channel on Highway 48 between Brownsville and Port Isabel, there is a good chance Stephanie Bilodeau or Justin LeClaire will race out to rescue it.
For the past several years, when strong north winds force birds down along this dangerous stretch of roadway, Stephanie and Justin have been there to help.
Stephanie Bilodeau, “This is going to be our third year, and as a team we have probably rescued, gosh over 300 now.”
Stephanie and Justin are part of a small group of volunteers that risk their lives to save pelicans from being struck and killed by vehicles.
The concrete barriers erected by the Texas Department of Transportation to protect motorists from each other, create a deadly downdraft during northers that cause low flying pelicans to crash onto the highway.
Justin LeClaire, “Seeing these birds sitting on the roadway, there is nothing that they are going to do, they are going to walk across the highway. It just doesn’t work on a 75 mph highway. They are going to get hit, so we have got to get them off.”
The Texas Department of Transportation has been studying the ongoing tragedy for years and has finally promised to replace the deadly barriers with concrete rails that they say will solve the problem. However, the fix is not scheduled until a year from now.
“We will do it as long as we need to. It could be a very long winter.” Says Bilodeau.
Thus far TxDOT has refused to lower the speed limit along this dangerous stretch of roadway. However, a petition advocating a lowering of the speed limit that has just begun circulating has already garnered some 1,500 signatures. If you would like to support this life saving effort go to change.org and search Highway 48 Pelicans.