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Wildlife Experts Say Young Utah Pelicans May Need Human Help

PROMONTORY, Utah – Wildlife experts are asking animal-lovers to keep an eye out for birds that may need help in Northern Utah.

One of the country’s biggest American white pelican breeding sites is on Gunnison Island in the northwest portion of the Great Salt Lake.

Workers with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources keep a close eye on the birds after they hatch.

“We can determine survival rates, where they come back to breed, how long it takes for them to return and breed,” said avian biologist John Neill.

By late summer, the young pelicans are learning to fly and finding a food source on their own.

“It’s about 16 miles to Spiral Jetty and then they have to fly about another 16 miles just to get to fresh water wetlands where they can eat fish,” Neill said.

Many of the young pelicans, Neill said, are too exhausted to complete the flight. The Great Salt Lake Institute has asked people to keep an eye out for birds who may be in trouble.

“If they think it’s pretty weak and it’s not running away, not afraid of you, you can probably corral it,” Neill said. “You do have to be careful of the pelican beak, though. It has a sharp nail, or hook on the end of the beak that helps them catch fish,”

The Institute recommends people take birds who are struggling to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah.

Healthy, mature pelicans migrate from Gunnison Island to places as far away as Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

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