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Brown Pelicans Released After Oil Spill Cleanup at Breton National Wildlife Refuge


June 28, 2005

Byron Fortier, (985) 882-2025


Sixty-three endangered brown pelicans that had been coated with light crude oil have been released on an island at Breton National Wildlife Refuge following treatment at a Venice, Louisiana rehabilitation facility.

The juvenile birds were among those being treated after an oil spill was discovered to have fouled their nesting grounds at Breton on June 13. The birds were captured and taken to Venice, where rehab experts from around the nation converged and began treatment in a race to save them from the deadly effects of the oil.

Because the juvenile pelicans had yet not learned to fly or fend for themselves, a hacking program was implemented in which the birds were taught the skills they would need to survive in the wild. The released birds will be monitored to determine whether aspects of the hacking program need to be continued on the island. Additional releases of birds from the rehab facility are planned in the coming days and weeks.

The released birds are part of a population of approximately 260 surviving brown pelicans treated in the wake of the spill. An additional 700 birds died either on the island, in transit to the rehab facility, or after treatment had begun. The cause of the spill is under investigation.

Breton National Wildlife Refuge is one of a network of refuges across the country managed to preserve wildlife and habitat. Portions of Breton are also designated as Class I Wilderness. The refuge is the second-oldest in the nation, and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2004.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 544 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 Fish and Wildlife Management offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.


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