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Drought helps North America’s largest white pelican refuge

FILE - In this May 31, 2005, file photo, thousands of white pelicans and their nests are visible on two small islands in the middle of Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge, in N.D. As abnormally dry weather bedevils North Dakota farmers and ranchers, drought-like conditions may be benefiting American white pelicans' nesting grounds at the island in the central part of the state known as North America's largest refuge for the big-billed birds. (AP Photo/Will Kincaid, File)

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Abnormally dry weather has been a boon to American white pelicans nesting on a North Dakota island known as North America’s largest refuge for the big-billed birds.

Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge manager Neil Shook says the dry spell appears to have curbed years of wet weather and surging water levels that threatened to swamp the main nesting island at the refuge.

Shook says island has shrunk by half in recent years, to 12 acres.

He says the big birds still have plenty of nesting room. An aerial survey completed this week showed some 27,120 breeding adults have returned from as far away as California and the Gulf Coast.

The count is among the highest recorded.

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