Pelican & osprey both found wrapped in fishing line

By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

A brown pelican and an osprey were among the forty-eight animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a black scoter, a black skimmer, an American White Pelican, a tricolored heron, a chicken turtle and a marsh rabbit.

The brown pelican washed ashore at 17th Avenue South in Naples. The pelican’s rescuer could see the pelican was in an extremely dire situation and brought the bird to the hospital for immediate medical attention. The pelican had an increased respiratory effort and was exhausted, cold, and wet. The fishing line was wrapped around both of the pelican’s wings and left leg leaving it completely immobilized. The left foot was swollen where a treble hook was pierced through the webbing.

Hospital staff removed all of the fishing tackle, performed laser therapy along the left foot and administered pain medications and a vitamin supplement. The pelican was placed on supplemental oxygen in a warmed animal intensive care unit to rest. Staff monitored the pelican throughout the day and were hopeful because the bird’s condition seemed to have stabilized.

Sadly, the following morning, staff arrived to find the pelican had passed away overnight. The only comfort in this needless loss of life was that the pelican was in a safe place when it passed; it didn’t flail in the water until it drowned or died slowly on the beach. Other than that, knowing what the pelican had endured, and that it still lost its battle to survive, was heartbreaking.

The following day, an osprey was admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital after being found in the road at the intersection of Sandpiper Street and Marlin Drive in Royal Harbor. The osprey was unable to fly because its body and wings were wrapped in fishing line; a large bobber was entangled in the osprey’s talons. Due to the osprey struggling to free itself from the tightly wrapped monofilament line, the left wing sustained a deep laceration into the soft tissue near the shoulder tendon.

The osprey received an antibiotic, electrolytes, pain medication, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory, vitamin supplements and an antifungal medication. Laser therapy was administered to address the swelling at the wound site on the wing. Later that day, once the pain meds had taken effect and the osprey was calmer, our staff vet performed surgery to suture the laceration along the shoulder.

Osprey are a notoriously high stressed species when kept in a captive situation and this bird was no exception; she was too stressed to eat on her own. Along with the medications and laser therapy, the osprey required twice-daily hand feeding. After three days, the osprey was able to be moved to an outdoor recovery space where she finally began to eat on her own.

The goal of this article is to bring public awareness to the many dangers wild animals are faced with and ultimately change people’s behavior to minimize injuries and death to native wildlife. Fishing line and hook injuries cause significant damage and death for many species of birds. Please, if you are an angler or know someone who participates in angling activities, do all you can to ensure and promote safe, ethical and responsible angling practices. If you are a novice angler, find out what equipment is appropriate for the area you intend to fish. Local anglers at the Naples Pier say braided line is less likely to snap when pulled taut compared to monofilament line so if you must fish at the Naples Pier, go prepared. Use barbless hooks and be sure to use the proper test line.

Minimize the risk of accidentally hooking a bird; if shorebirds are congregating near where you are fishing, chose another fishing spot that is free of birds.

Keep in mind fishing may be a recreational activity for you but successfully catching fish means life or death for the birds. Poor water quality, cooler temperatures and lack of fish add pressure for shorebirds that are already struggling to exist in a world severely altered by humans. Give them a break and allow birds the opportunity to forage without the added dangers of hook and line entanglement. Showing empathy, awareness and understanding for other living creatures could significantly reduce the number of animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital every week.

Recent Releases

Two Florida softshell turtles, nine brown pelicans, a laughing gull, a chicken turtle, a black skimmer, a striped mud turtle, two eastern cottontails, two grey squirrels, a double-crested cormorant and a Virginia opossum were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

Please visit the Conservancy website at www.conservancy.org to view all of the amazing work done by staff and volunteers at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Please help us continue this amazing work; your tax-deductible, year-end gifts makes the rescue, rehabilitation and release of native wildlife possible and help us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.

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Weekly blog from Joanna Fitzgerald, director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital.

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Conservancy of SWFL

Conservancy of SWFL

Protecting Southwest Florida's unique natural environment and quality of life...now and forever.

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