Pelican population increases at North Dakota wildlife refuge

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Pelicans fly over and sit on man made rock revetment on Queen Bess Island in Barataria Bay, La., Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. The island provides a crucial nesting ground for pelicans and other seabirds and is being restored to nearly its former size after decades of coastal erosion and the devastating blow of an offshore oil spill 10 years ago. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Abnormally dry weather may have helped boost the number of American white pelicans nesting in north-central North Dakota known as North America’s largest refuge for the big-billed birds.

Results of an aerial survey show 16,600 pelicans nesting at the Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge, an increase of about 2,400 birds from a year ago when high water gobbled up much of their nesting grounds.  

Jennifer Jewett, a wildlife refuge specialist, says the main nesting island is only about half the size it was seven years ago.

She says the drought that has parched the state may have helped curb rising water at the main nesting island.

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