The Pelican’s Plight

Richard Moore Outdoor Report

It is proving to be a disastrous year for the brown pelicans of the lower Laguna Madre. Richard Moore has the tragic story of the ongoing plight of our beloved pelicans.

More than 100 Brown Pelicans have now been struck and killed by motorists on State Highway 48 between Brownsville and Port Isabel this winter, as during the most recent cold front 23 more were slaughtered. These latest fatalities were gathered to illustrate the horrific extent of the ongoing tragedy.

Once again, the majority of deaths occur at dusk along the Gayman channel, as the low flying pelicans struggle against the strong north wind while attempting to reach their roosting site in the Bahia Grande Unit of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.

Many of the pelicans crash into the concrete barrier separating the four lanes of traffic. It appears that the solid 4 ft. high wall atop the beam contributes to deadly turbulence forcing the birds downward.

The death toll would have been much higher if several volunteers had not slowed traffic and rescued pelicans that were on the road.

Stephanie Bilodeau, Volunteer and Conservation Biologist with Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, “It would be really great if we could get this speed limit lowered, if it is only during these cold fronts with the strong winds. Just 20 miles an hour less, if we could get to 55 miles an hour, I think that could make a big difference. It would be a lot easier for people to slow down at that point for a pelican in the road, then when they are going 75 miles per hour.”

Sadly, this is an ongoing tragedy that has been occurring for at least the past five years following the restoration of the Bahia Grande Wetland, with untold numbers of pelicans being killed.

The current speed limit of 75 miles per hour is a danger not only to pelicans, but fishermen and motorists as well.  However, despite numerous requests from the public and government agencies the Texas Department of Transportation has failed to lower the speed limit. 

Boyd Blihovde, Manager Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, “There at the intersection of state road 48 and the Bahia Grande wetland I am definitely pushing for a lower speed limit, and TxDOT is listening to that but according to TxDOT it is difficult to change the speed limits on highways in Texas.”

With your Outdoor Report I’m Richard Moore.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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