By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital
A brown pelican and a marsh rabbit were among the 44 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week.
The brown pelican was admitted after being hooked in the leg by a treble hook near the Naples Pier. The pelican arrived at the hospital, leg bloodied with the fish hook embedded near its ankle.
This type of hook removal is painful for the bird so Conservancy vet Dr. PJ Deitschel sedated the pelican. While the pelican was under sedation a radiograph was taken to ensure the pelican had not ingested any hooks. The radiograph was negative so the main health concern was the injury caused by the hook. The pelican was started on an antibiotic and pain medications and is receiving low energy laser treatment to address inflammation caused by the hook. Currently, the pelican is recovering in the bird room with two other pelicans that were also injured after being entangled in fishing line and hooks.
Pelicans, as well as many other species of shorebirds, frequently suffer injuries due to fishing hooks and line. Most fish hook and line injuries are preventable. Please, utilize responsible fishing practices if you or someone you know participates in angling activities. Be aware of your surroundings; don’t cast your line if birds are flying nearby.
Accidentally hooking a bird while fishing does happen but how the situation is handled from that point can mean life or death for the bird. Ripping the hook out of the bird’s body to avoid cutting the barb off just to keep the hook intact is inhumane. Purposely cutting the line and allowing the bird to fly off with several feet of monofilament line trailing behind is reckless and can lead to death by hanging if the line becomes entangled in tree branches when the bird flies in to roost.
If a bird becomes entangled in your line, reel the bird in carefully but quickly; a bird struggling against a taut line may cause the monofilament line to break and allow the bird to fly off still hooked with several feet of line attached to the hook.
Once the bird is reeled in, cover its head with a towel to help calm the bird. If the hook is not deeply embedded, gently push the hook through until the barb is exposed. Clip the barb and back the hook out. Do not throw the bird into the air forcing it to fly; step away and allow the bird time to gain its bearings and fly off when ready.
If the hook is deeply embedded, as was the case with this pelican, or if the hook has been ingested, contain the bird and bring it to the wildlife hospital for immediate medical attention.
A peninsula cooter, a Florida red-bellied turtle, two eastern cottontails, a Florida box turtle, two red-bellied woodpeckers, eight grey squirrels, an ovenbird, an eastern screech owl and a mourning dove were released this past week.
Opportunities to Help
Please visit the Conservancy website at www.conservancy.org to view all of the amazing volunteer opportunities at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Your volunteer time, memberships and donations are vital in helping us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.