Fishing hook suspected in grebe injury

By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

A horned grebe was among the 54 animals admitted the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

The horned grebe was the first animal admitted in 2017 and it is the first record of a horned grebe being admitted to our facility.

Horned grebes are seen in Florida throughout the winter but their range doesn’t typically show them being common this far south.

The grebe was found in Bonita Springs with a laceration spanning from one side of its chest to the other. A fishing hook is the suspected cause of injury. The severity of the injury required the bird be assessed, stabilized and prepped for surgery.

The grebe went into respiratory distress multiple times during surgery which added a level of difficulty to the situation. Thankfully, once out of surgery, the grebe’s condition improved and within 24 hours, the bird was interested in eating. Currently, the grebe continues to rehabilitate in the bird room and is being allowed supervised time in the water therapy pool.

The grebe is not the only bird admitted this past week with injuries caused by fishing line and hooks. Two brown pelicans and a laughing gull were also admitted with injuries resulting from hooks and line.

If you participate in angling activities, take precautions to avoid injuring nearby birds.
Check to ensure no birds are flying by when you cast your line; never leave baited hooks and line unattended.
If you accidentally hook a bird, stay calm and don’t cut the line. Slowly reel the bird in and cover its head and body with a towel to help keep it calm and make it easier to handle.
Carefully push the hook through to expose the barb. Cut the barb and gently back the now barbless hook out.
If the hook is deeply embedded in the bird, please call the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at 239.262.CARE for assistance.
Also, always place unwanted fishing tackle in appropriate trash receptacles. If you miscast and your line gets tangled in surrounding vegetation, be responsible and retrieve the monofilament debris. Hooks and line left in the environment can be deadly to unsuspecting wildlife.

Recent Releases — 29 Rehabilitated Animals Return Home

  • 9 eastern cottontails
  • 1 Cooper’s hawk
  • 2 anhingas
  • 4 raccoons
  • 5 mottled ducks
  • 1 great blue heron
  • 7 double-crested cormorants

Opportunities to Help

Visit the Conservancy website at to see a list of all the amazing volunteer opportunities at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Your volunteer time, memberships and donations are truly vital in helping us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.

Joanna Fitzgerald is director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Call 239–262–2273 or see