American White Pelican found dead at Lake Merritt

Lyla Arum

Fellow birders,

Yesterday, I found a dead American White Pelican in the water in front of the Lake Merritt Boat Rental center. The sight churned my stomach, not just because of the loss of such a large bird, but because last week, the boat rental staff thought they had seen our beloved long-term disabled pelican resident (since 2003!), Hank, spending time on their docks.

Concerned that the deceased could be Hank, I reached out to a long time caretaker of her's for help. Once he arrived, we pulled the pelican out of the water onto a tarp and gently tried to examine it to determine: a) how it died, b) if it was Hank. Unfortunately, the bird's decomposition and bloating prevented a positive ID and cause of death. We wrapped the body in the tarp and placed it in an empty cardboard trash box. I submitted a Wildlife Mortality Report on California Department of Fish & Wildlife's (CDFW) website yesterday and this morning a message was left at Oakland's Animal Services notifying them of the location of the body.

I would like to ask the birding community for help with the following:  1) Please keep a lookout at the lake for any other pelican fatalities and report them to CDFW and Animal Services. 2) If you see Hank, please notify me and, if possible, take a photo. We do not know the cause of this pelican's death. It could be from natural causes, or perhaps its death was hastened by humans (shot at by BB guns like a Canadian goose was at the bird yard; run over by one of the many large toy motorboats people are racing on the lake; smoke pollution from the fires, etc.). 

If there were any other steps we should have taken upon finding this pelican, please let me know. I am very sorry to be the bearer of such sad news.

- Lyla