In what has unfortunately become a dangerous winter ritual, volunteers were once again on a deadly valley roadway risking their lives to save pelicans.
There are at least three truisms in life; taxes, death and pelicans plummeting from the sky when a strong norther blows across Highway 48 between Brownsville and Port Isabel.
Earlier this week, when the north winds blasted thru with 25 mph plus winds, a dedicated cadre of some dozen daring volunteers rescued at least 20 pelicans from certain death on the highway.
Miraculously, no pelicans were hit and killed by vehicles thanks to volunteers. Justin LeClaire has been rescuing pelicans for the past several years and nearly 300 have been saved.
“I literally feel like I have to. Seeing the slaughter last year, last winter, was devastating, and I just feel compelled to be out here.”
Unfortunately, this tragic scenario has been occurring for at least the past six years along this stretch of busy highway at the Gayman Channel as pelicans attempt to reach their roosting grounds at Bahia Grande, with more than 133 birds killed in just the last few winters.
The concrete barrier atop the raised highway creates a deadly downdraft causing pelicans to crash to the roadway. The Texas Department of Transportation is well aware of the problem and studying solutions.
Octavio Saenz, Public Information Officer Texas Department of Transportation, “We have determined that yes, the concrete barrier does have an effect on this wind tunnel downdraft. So, the next thing is what should we use as a barrier that would not only protect the pelicans during these cold fronts, but protect people 24/7.”
While TXDOT studies the proper replacement barrier needed to prevent pelican deaths, volunteers like Justin LeClaire will continue to risk their lives rescuing downed pelicans.
And don’t expect a solution anytime soon.
“Less than two years, I am pretty sure. We know there is an issue and we know a lot of people are vested into it, and we want to do it as soon as possible.” Said Octavio Saenz.