Please be careful on Highway 48 between Brownsville and Port Isabel.

By Meghan Overdeep
October 17, 2018
Highway 48 Pelicans
Credit: Facebook/US National Weather Service Brownsville/Rio Grande Valley Texas

It's been an especially hard week for the South Texas wildlife community. The Texas Department of Public Safety reports that dozens of pelicans were killed after a cold front forced a flock of the nautical birds to make landfall on a Cameron County highway between Brownsville and Port Isabel.

More than 40 pelicans were reportedly struck and killed by drivers on Highway 48 on Monday evening alone. In a news release, DPS Lt. Johnny Hernandez revealed that state troopers were called to the highway that night "to try and prevent any additional pelicans being hit by passing motorist(s)." A state game warden and a county deputy also stepped in to help with traffic control in an effort to prevent any further deaths.

The Brownsville Herald reports that this is nothing new. In fact, it happens every year when cold weather arrives in Cameron County.

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According Herald archives, the problem occurs when strong winds begin to arrive from the north. The sudden change in temperature causes pelicans to fly from the Brownsville Ship Channel into the Bahia Grande, where they nest. Unfortunately, because the highway runs east to west, "its concrete median creates a vortex that causes pelicans to drop onto Highway 48."

Pelicans can't keep up with cars clocking in at 75 mph, which makes it hard for them to escape oncoming vehicles.

"We just remind the public to be careful," Hernandez told the Herald.

Because pelicans start flying back to their nests in the afternoon, Texas Department of Public Safety is urging drivers to use extra caution when on Highway 48 between 5pm and 8 p.m. The pelicans depend on it.