Six pelicans admitted this week

By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

Six brown pelicans were among the 48 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week.

All six brown pelicans were found in different areas in Collier County. One pelican was found deceased on a boat dock at a sailing club. Another pelican was found at a marina behind the Naples Airport and was so badly injured humane euthanasia was our only treatment option. The remaining four pelicans were injured due to fishing line and hook injuries.

Von Arx Hospital Staff prepare to administer pain medications and electrolytes after removing fishing hooks and line from a brown pelican found floundering in the water at Venetian Bay.

Two pelicans, one found at Bay View Park Boat Ramp, the other found on Isles of Capri, ingested hooks and line. The radiograph of the pelican from Bay View Park showed eight fish hooks in its stomach.

The two pelicans entangled in fishing line and hooks were also suffering. One pelican found entangled in line struggling in the water at Venetian Bay had a fish hook embedded in its left wing with monofilament line wrapped tightly around both wings. The bird was so entangled it could not move its wings. The pelican also had a fish hook embedded in its leg.

The second pelican entangled in fishing line was found at East Naples Middle School. The pelican had a treble hook embedded in its chest and was too weak to fly.

The four pelicans are rehabilitating in the bird room at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. The prognoses for the two birds that ingested the fish hooks are guarded. Treatment plans for birds with such extensive injuries are very involved to ensure we are addressing all of the medical issues caused by the fish hooks and line.

How You Can Help

This is the time of year when angler and pelican interactions are increased. Please, if you or someone you know participates in angling activities utilize responsible practices. If you accidentally hook a bird, do not cut the line. Reel the bird in carefully but quickly. A bird struggling against a taut line may cause the line to break and allow the bird to fly off entangled in the hook and line.

Video playing at Naples Pier

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. Step away and allow the bird time to gain its bearings and fly off.

If the hook is deeply embedded, or if the hook has been ingested, contain the bird and bring it to the wildlife hospital for immediate medical attention.

If your cast misses the mark and becomes entangled in nearby vegetation, retrieve the line. Line left behind can be deadly if an animal becomes entangled and is unable to free itself. Utilize the monofilament disposal tubes found at most boat ramps and fish cleaning stations to ensure fishing tackle is not left in the environment.

Pelican safety sign originally posted at Naples Pier, now posted in loacations throughout Florida

Recent Releases — 18 Animals Returned Home

  • 1 grey squirrel
  • 2 anhingas
  • 3 eastern cottontails
  • 1 red-shouldered hawk
  • 1 common grackle
  • 2 osprey
  • 1 eastern screech owl
  • 1 sandwich tern
  • 2 double-crested cormorants
  • 1 mourning dove
  • 1 gopher tortoise
  • 2 Virginia opossums

Opportunities to Help

As we start a new year, make a resolution to make a difference. 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