Pelican Peril: 40 birds die after cold front blasts in

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

An unseasonably fierce cold front led to the death of approximately 40 brown pelicans on Highway 48 Monday evening, the Texas Department of Public Safety reported.

The front, which dropped temperatures to lows not normally seen until November, brought with it strong winds which may have contributed to the birds’ deaths. It’s a phenomenon that has plagued the busy corridor connecting Port Isabel to Brownsville for several years. And it’s one both local residents and first responders have struggled to mitigate.

“We’re just reminding the public to be careful,” DPS spokesperson Lt. Johnny Hernandez said during a phone interview Tuesday. “These birds tend to land at that location and we understand that their flight pattern is not the quickest,” he said.

Hernandez added that DPS will continue to patrol the area as long as the hazardous conditions persist.

The Port Isabel Fire Department also responded to the highway, using the emergency lights of a fire truck to help alert motorists to the downed birds, as well as the volunteers working to rescue them throughout the week.

Monday evening’s pelican fatalities took responders and volunteers by surprise, said Port Isabel Fire Marshal John Sandoval. “Not at all, and I think that was the biggest reason we might have let our guard down a little bit,” Sandoval said, speaking of the severity of the cold front, which many expected to be milder.

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