BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Pelicans continue plummeting to the road and struck by cars on Highway 48 between Brownsville and Port Isabel as the first northers of the year roar thru.
Justin LeClaire, pelican rescue volunteer, has already helped save a dozen pelicans from the roadway this month. “Same thing we have been dealing with the last few years. The birds kind of just start dropping out. We had about 40 birds come down on the highway. Luckily, we got most of them up and back to the right side of the road. We did have a few struck by cars.”
This tragic scenario has occurred for the past decade along this busy stretch of highway as pelicans fly into strong northerly winds while attempting to reach their roosting site in the Bahia Grande Unit of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge.
Many pelicans crash into the concrete barriers separating traffic, and the solid northern wall is being replaced by a flow-thru design, that according to the Texas Department of Transportation will lessen the deadly downdraft that is thought to be forcing low flying pelicans to plummet onto the highway.
“Over the last few years, we have had about 600 birds go down that we have observed, and about 200 of those have in fact been struck by cars, so we have saved about two thirds of the birds that have gone down over the last few years.” said LeClaire.
Construction of the new outer barrier is approximately halfway along and will hopefully be completed by the end of the year. Meanwhile, with the next cold front, pelican rescue volunteers will continue to risk their lives to save the birds.
LeClaire adds, “If you are traveling this highway, please slow down, because we will be out here pulling birds off the highway.”