The rise and fall of the brown pelican?

It has been heartbreaking to see the masses of brown pelicans covered in a heavy tarlike substance brought back to land, hopefully to be cleaned and released. It is even more heartbreaking to think of the birds who didn’t make it.  

The fish and other sea animals are being slowly strangled to death beneath the murky Gulf waters, but the pelican’s plight is much more visible, and possibly more severe.

It just makes me sick to think of these helpless creatures struggling to swim or fly — or breathe.

It also makes me wonder about the survival of the brown pelican, whose population once was nearly wiped out because of poisoning from the pesticide DDT. The birds were placed on the endangered species list in 1970, and in November 2009 was delisted because the birds had made remarkable recovery.

Will the oil spill in the Gulf change that? Will they need protection again, less than a year after being delisted?

Photo caption:  ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A Brown Pelican is released at the Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge near St. Petersburg on May 30, 2010.  Credit: Petty Officer 3rd Class Nick Ameen / U.S. Coast Guard

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