This pelican was found struggling in Indian Harbour Beach and eventually died.
Melbourne, FL (Florida Today) -- More than 100 parasite-infested brown pelicans died in Brevard County in the past two months.
No one knows why.
pelicans are emaciated and have heavy parasite counts, and, to our
knowledge, other bird species have not been affected," Dan Wolf, a
researcher with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,
said in a release.
of the dead pelicans have turned up in Cocoa Beach. But others have
been found on Merritt Island, in Melbourne, Indian Harbour Beach and
along the St. Sebastian River.
FWC researchers are assessing specimens from the pelican carcasses and the environment to identify a potential cause.
also sent samples two weeks ago to the U.S. Geological Survey's
National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisc. for testing. But
biologists have yet to come up with definitive answers.
are awaiting results from additional samples sent this week that may
determine whether the pelicans died of botulism, which sometimes
triggers large bird die-offs.
But botulism generally kills birds quickly, Wolf said, leaving little time for the pelicans to become emaciated.
Birds get botulism when they eat rotten fish, which concentrate the Type E toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum.
Human botulism cases from Type E toxin are very rare. Type A or Type B
botulinum toxin makes humans sick, usually after they eat spoiled canned
Botulism commonly kills ducks in western states. The Type E toxin can become concentrated in maggots.
Low and fluctuating water levels and warm temperatures can help trigger outbreaks.
suspect it may be botulism due to the warmer than average winter," Sue
Small, director of the Florida Wildlife Hospital and Sanctuary in Palm
Shores, said earlier this week.
The hospital has seen at least 15 sick pelicans at the hospital in the past few weeks. All but two died.
the same time last year, more than a dozen brown pelicans died in Palm
Shores, Rockledge and Indian Harbour Beach within about a month. Tests
by FWC found a common bacteria at fault. The bacteria was most likely
from eating decomposed fish.
red tide has been lingering off Southwest Florida since September,
killing a record 174 manatees so far this year. But no other significant
fish kills, algae blooms or other toxic events that could kill birds
have been reported here.