SAN PEDRO, Calif. (KABC) -- After rescuing more than 300 sick and injured pelicans from the Southern California coast earlier this year, the International Bird Rescue celebrated by releasing a dozen pelicans after a healthy recovery on Friday. The release also marked the 100th pelican they've treated and let back into the wild.
"It felt like I was letting them back into their own environment," said Michael Thomas, a volunteer who helped open the cage for one pelican.
Rebecca Duerr, who is the vet with the rescue nonprofit, said since May they have received nearly 350 California brown pelicans at their rescue centers. Most of the birds were starving and injured.
"One of the major sources of injury for these animals has been fishing hook and line injuries," Duerr said. "Most of these animals have come from Los Angeles County. So, it's been almost 200 birds stranding in Los Angeles County."
As for why the pelicans are starving, Duerr said they don't know. They are receiving pelicans of all ages.
"It wasn't the usual starving babies that sometimes happens with wild animals. It was older birds that were having trouble finding food and stranding in terrible condition," said Duerr.
According to Duerr, they have about 150 pelicans left to care for and then release back into the wild. They are working very hard to hopefully release another dozen pelicans next week.