Ongoing red tide taking a toll on birds in Sarasota County

Red Tide

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Red tide has been impacting Sarasota County beaches since early July. Cleanup efforts started earlier this month. To date, more than 64 tons of dead fish and other marine debris have been removed from beaches in Sarasota County since Aug. 4.

Aside from marine life, red tide is also taking a toll on seabirds. Several different species are ending up at local rescue and rehabilitation centers with similar symptoms. They’re disoriented, dehydrated, and in many cases appear intoxicated.

“The past few days, our bird count has definitely increased,” said Executive Director of Wildlife Center of Southwest Florida Pamela DeFouw. “We have seen close to 100 birds that have displayed those symptoms. Some of them we are fortunate enough to be able to turn them around really quickly, others take a little bit longer,” she explained.

There are also birds on the mend at Save Our Seabirds in Sarasota. CEO Aaron Virgin says they haven’t been over run, but the rescues have been coming in at a steady pace.

“We are averaging almost one a day and it is our network of volunteers who are going out and following up,” said Virgin. “Most of these birds are resident birds. Most of the birds we are seeing are from Longboat key, Lido, and a few on Siesta Key so those are the main three areas right now we are seeing them,” he explained.

Saving ill birds takes a community network, according to DeFouw.

“Anyone that sees a disoriented or injured bird should definitely call a rehabilitation facility because it is so important to get them in and get that treatment started right away,” said DeFouw.

Save Our Seabird’s hotline number is (941)-388-3010.

To reach the Wildlife Center of Southwest Florida in Venice (covering Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte and Lee counties) call (941) 484-9657 or (941) 416-4967 for after hours.

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