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February 24, 2014

Tangled Pelican Rescued

Pelican recovers at SFWC after being found with a hook and fishing line in her wing

  • Several pelican patients enjoy the center's brand new outdoor pools. Dr. Renata Schneider/SFWC

  • The outdoor pools encourage natural behaviors in the center's rehabilitation patients. Dr. Renata Schneider/SFWC

  • The rescued pelican's wing had critical wounds that required several rounds of treatment. Dr. Renata Schneider/SFWC

  • On release day, the pelican cautiously emerges from the transport crate onto the open beach. SFWC

  • Four pelicans were released on the same day, and each took his or her turn flying off into the wild. SFWC

With three fully-equipped wildlife rescue ambulances, South Florida Wildlife Center is always ready to respond to calls for help from partner organizations and community individuals—who are often vacationers, like in one recent rescue.

Hooked
In early January, three students who were visiting South Florida during their winter vacation observed a pelican tangled in a tree with what appeared to be string through her beak. She had little hope of survival on her own as she dangled almost 75 feet up in the air above a lake.

The students called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the licensing organization for wildlife rehabilitators, who promptly called South Florida Wildlife Center to assist with the rescue.

Before a fire truck and ladder could arrive to help rescuers reach the pelican in the tree, she fell into the lake and was immediately retrieved by the students who jumped in to rescue her. Rescuers found a fishing hook and line embedded in and wrapped around her wing. She likely became tangled in the tree as she attempted to fly and shake off the fishing line. SFWC Veterinarian, Dr. Stefan Harsch, says, “Fishing line restricts their extremities, the wings, so this is a sad story, and unfortunately it’s very common.”

Donate to help provide critical care for injured wildlife»

Bright future
Upon intake at SFWC, the pelican received a full round of radiographs to ensure there were no other embedded hooks or other injuries. Due to the severity of the wounds in her wing, a result of the fishing line being wrapped around the wing, she required six rounds of wound treatment under general anesthesia.

In the pelican’s final stages of rehabilitation, SFWC’s Director of Wildlife Rehabilitation, Dr. Renata Schneider, is taking advantage of the center’s outdoor pools and aviaries to ensure the pelican is prepared for release. Dr. Schneider says, “We are flying her to help her to regain the extension that was lost from contraction of the wing during wound healing.”

Hook-injury prevention
Hook and line injuries in pelicans are extremely common, and pelicans in need of treatment arrive at SFWC daily from November – March. The average cost to treat and rehabilitate an injured pelican is $600. Donate help support their care»

Pelicans and other birds get hooks caught in their beaks and other body parts when they eat fish that have been caught and put back into the water. Instead of fully-removing the hooks, fishers simply cut the fishing line. To prevent these painful, and often deadly, injuries, fishers should ensure the hooks are fully-removed before returning a fish back into the water. Additionally, anyone who sees a bird tangled in fishing line or with a hook embedded somewhere in his or her body is encouraged to call South Florida Wildlife Center: 954-524-4302.

Update: March, 2014

The rescued pelican was safely release with three other pelican patients from SFWC. Local media was on hand to document the joyous occasion:

Pelican released after months of recovery
Pelican Rescued in Fishing Line in Fort Lauderdale Released Back Into the Wild
Rehabbed Pelican Flies Free After Being Treated For Injuries

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