BRADENTON — It will be freedom today for 60 pelicans who have escaped the Gulf oil spill and will be released into the wild at Fort DeSoto Park.
The birds impacted by the Deepwater Horizon spill will be flown from New Orleans to the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Coast Guard Station and are expected to arrive around 8:30 a.m. They are slated for release at the park’s North Beach section by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officials, said Ana Gibbs, an external affairs manager for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, who is now assisting the U.S. Coast Guard’s Unified Command in Miami.
In May, six birds rescued off the coast of Louisiana were released nearby at Egmont Key, at the mouth of Tampa Bay. Officials of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Coast Guard had ferried the birds there from Fort Jackson Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at Buras, La., where they were cleaned of oil from the oil spill.
The birds included four brown pelicans, a northern gannet and a laughing gull, said Dr. Sharon Taylor, who supervised the release. Taylor is a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service veterinarian and a contamination expert. “Getting birds back out is the key to their long-term survival,” she said as she reloaded empty cages into a boat.
The massive spill occurred after an April fire and explosion at BP’s Deepwater Horizon well off the coast of Louisiana.
Over the 10 weeks that crude has been gushing into the Gulf, more than 2,000 birds have been plucked from gooey slicks and blackened shorelines, about 60 percent of them already dead.
The Miami Herald contributed to this report.