Endangered Species Act Proves Successful for the Brown Pelican

photo by mike baird

The brown pelican is a common sight for the locals in Florida and other Gulf Coast States.  But this species has fought a long, hard battle to become the coastal feature it is today.

For nearly a century, brown pelican populations from the Caribbean to the Pacific were dangerously close to extinction due to the combined effects of hunting, habitat loss and reproductive failure from the pesticide DDT.  To protect the remaining population and rebuild, the species was placed on the Endangered Species list in 1970.  After decades of protection that began under president Theodore Roosevelt, the species was removed from this list on                       November 11th, 2009. 

In the early 2000’s, the US Fish and Wildlife Service considered removing the species from the list.  Unfortunately, this hope was temporarily dashed when several oil spills and Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the pelican habitat along the Gulf coast. 

While this story for the brown pelican is a success, scientists will continue to monitor this species in the future.  Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar excitedly claimed “ …we once in a while have an opportunity to celebrate an amazing success story… The brown pelican is back!”

– Tara Duffy, Stony Brook University

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