(Bay City News) Wildlife rescuers say large numbers of starving young pelicans are turning up on local beaches right now.

The pelicans appear thin and weak, and are walking up to people, said Rebecca Dmytryk, a spokeswoman for WildRescue, a Moss Landing-based nonprofit.

Dmytryk said the starving young birds, which can be distinguished from adults by their brown heads, are distressing to see but probably part of a normal natural die-off, or “survival of the fittest.”

While it’s distressing to see, not all the young birds can or should be saved, she noted.

“Should we intervene? It’s a tough call!” Dmytryk said in a written statement. “It’s certainly upsetting to see a starving baby pelican on the beach, but are we doing the species a disservice if we take in all the weak ones?”

Resources for bird rescues are limited, and the nearest center, in Cordelia, is already overrun with young pelicans who cost a great deal to feed, Dmytryk said.

Members of the public who see an injured or ill-looking pelican should noted the color of the head, then call WildRescue’s hotline at 1 (866) WILD-911. Keep people and dogs away from the birds, which are protected by federal law.

WildRescue will rescue as many birds as resources allow, with adult birds being given the priority, Dmytryk said.

While the brown pelican population was once threatened to near extinction, it has now rebounded, Dmytryk said.

Those interested in volunteering to help rescue pelicans should go to wildrescue.org. Volunteers are needed in Santa Cruz, San Jose and San Francisco.

Update 11:23 a.m. Rebecca Dymtryk told KQED News today that her organization is seeing many of the birds around Monterey, Santa Cruz, and Santa Clara. “We had calls from Santa Clara yesterday,” she said, “they’re coming in all over. People should just be on the lookout for them up and down the California coast.”

She said she received a call about one of the birds this morning from Scotts Valley, north of Santa Cruz and about eight miles inland.

She also emphasized that the bird are federally protected. “We’ve gotten a lot of reports about pelicans sited on beaches, where people are allowing dogs to go up to them and even attack them, and kids are poking sticks at them. It’s a violation of the Migratory Bird Treat Act to pursue or to harm wild birds.”

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