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Double-crested Cormorant Saved from Fish Hook Injury at SFWC

Thanks to SFWC, a double-crested cormorant was able to recover from ingesting seven fish hooks.

  • A beautiful double-crested cormorant enjoying the sun in the Everglades National Park. Cynthia Barstad/SFWC

  • The double-crested cormorant right after surgery. SFWC

  • The veterinary staff at SFWC performs surgery to remove several fishing hooks and fishing line. SFWC

  • The results of the abdominal surgery where the veterinary staff removed seven fishing hooks, a metal sinker and quite a bit of fishing line. SFWC

  • The double-crested cormorant healed and hook free, back out in the wild. SFWC

Fishing is a popular pastime in South Florida, but many people who fish don’t realize their bait may be enticing to more than just the fish. It is a common occurrence for birds to go after a baited hook thinking it is easy food, resulting in them either swallowing the hook or getting injured or tangled up in the hook and line. Unfortunately, frustrated fishers end up just cutting their line when this happens, leaving the bird to fly off injured or with an ingested hook in their belly, and many of these birds end up at the South Florida Wildlife Center.

Just recently we took in an injured double-crested cormorant with wounds and a large amount of swelling at the corners of his beak—injuries consistent with the ingestion of fishing hooks. Double-crested cormorants are large seabirds who live near rivers, lakes and along the coastline and are common to the South Florida area. Because their diet consists mainly of fish, they are at high risk of swallowing a hook, or multiple hooks, as was the case with our recent patient.

The cormorant was picked up by one of our ambulances from a facility in Miami and brought to our veterinary hospital. The bird wasn’t eating and was in obvious pain, so our vets acted quickly to administer antibiotics to combat any possible infection as well as medication to reduce pain and inflammation.

Fish hook injuries are far too common in South Florida. Please consider making a donation so we can continue to save more animals from these types of deadly injuries»

X-rays were taken, which confirmed his injury was caused by a fishing hook, but there appeared to be at least five hooks in his abdomen. It was also determined the fishing line had caused the damage to his beak. SFWC’s veterinary staff performed surgery and found a total of seven fishing hooks, in addition to monofilament fishing line and one metal sinker—no wonder the bird was unable to eat.

After the cormorant was moved to the outdoor habitat, he continued to improve, and after a few more weeks he was able to be released back into the wild. Though the desired outcome was achieved, sadly, this is an all too common injury in South Florida, and many birds aren’t lucky enough to make it to SFWC before succumbing to their injuries. To prevent these painful, and often deadly, injuries, people who choose to fish should ensure hooks are fully removed gently and carefully before returning a fish back into the water. If a bird goes after a baited hook, do not cut the line, but instead carefully reel the bird in and contact the appropriate authorities to assist in rescuing the bird. If you are in the South Florida area and see a bird tangled in fishing line or with a hook embedded somewhere on or in his or her body, please call South Florida Wildlife Center at 954-524-4302.

Watch a brief video of the cormorant's release.

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