Saturday, June 13, 2009

How to Kill a Pelican

Judging by the precautions the wealthy community of Anna Maria, Fl takes to protect their wildlife it wouldn't surprise me to see a poster on how to kill a pelican. I mean why not. They're just birds. They poop on the pier. They steal fish from people fishing. Who cares if a pelican dies?

Kenny and I were geocaching from Venice to Bradenton along the Gulf of Mexico today and found ourselves out on the pier at Anna Maria. The 600 foot long pier has a bar and a restaurant out on the end and there were well over 200 people on it this Saturday night including many people fishing. As we were walking off the pier an unmanned fishing pole snagged a pelican. Kenny grabbed the fishing pole - alerted the owner and demanded the guy understand the seriousness of the situation. "Oh that happens all the time" the guy explained. Now seriously annoyed - Kenny and I tried to make him understand that the hook had torn the Pelican's bill, the monofiliment was now tangled around the bird's wings and the treble hook had cut deeply in the bird's side.
We were able to get the bird onto the pier. As I distracted the Pelican, Kenny covered the bird's head with a reusable Publix shopping bag and grabbed the bill. Pelican's can turn their head in every direction and if they hook you they can shred you. We untangled the fishing line but the hook remained lodged in it's side.
The fisherman who hooked him helped us restrain the bird and after 30 minutes the bird was stressed to the point where it seemed to pass out. We were able to cut the hook loose and eventually the bird roused itself (and posed for the picture).
Another woman called 911 and asked for their assistance only to be passed along to Fish & Wildlife in St. Lucie County. I asked a local bartender who also said it happens all the time. Cut the hook and let the bleeding, injured bird go. A poster on Brown Pelican Safety explained how not to be injured by a hooked bird and to call a number (which is no longer in service). I called 411 while restraining the bird with the other hand. They gave me the number for Fish & Wildlife in Polk County. Where is Polk County?!?
Eventually we called Save Our Shorebirds - a bird rescue operation 30 minutes south of the Anna Maria Pier. Coincidentally when we passed it earlier in the day I explained to Kenny that my dad used to help rescue Pelicans back in the 70's and 80's and some of the Pelicans came here. Who knew we'd rescue one later?
We placed "Billy Bob" in a large pelican-sized Rubbermaid file folder and I drove while Kenny kept the know angry Pelican from escaping in the back seat of the car. We brought him to S.O.S. and dropped him off in an overnight hotel cage (the pelican not Kenny). Volunteers from S.O.S. will look after the poor pelican as soon as they can and I'll update his progress.

It was a frustrating experience and the lack of help from people passing by was disheartening. Had we not been there the Pelican would have died. And even after we had assisted the bird, the lack of information on how to rescue the bird is unconscionable. The really stupid thing is I ran to the car to get the container and when I returned another guy (who had helped us capture the Pelican) had snagged a Laughing Gull by the legs. By the time we had brought that bird in and restrained it, his feet were so bound up that it was not long from losing circulation in the feet and possibly losing those feet.

I'm sure things like this happen all of the time and sadly fishermen probably just cut the line and the animals die. Thankfully there are organizations like S.O.S. (941-388-3010) in Sarasota County that help rescue and rehab injured wildlife.
In Lee County C.R.O.W. (239-472-3644) does similar work for many types of wildlife.

For those that would injure an animal or pass one with little care? I would send them to the Anna Maria City Jail. But that probably wouldn't make much difference.


  1. Sorry I wasn't much help in the "phone a friend" department, but I'm glad to see that you got the bird to the right place. By the way, how many caches did you guys get?

  2. I'm glad you were there to help, and it's good to know such organizations exist.

    But in defense of Anna Maria - not everyone who lives there is wealthy. My aunt and uncle, both school teachers, have lived there for 40 years, and they aren't the wealthy elite.

  3. I suppose my point was that this was not tome podunk town. It's not all gated communities and I may have been a bit unfair but this community should be able to support a better animal rescue system. Regardless of wealthy - everyone should show humanity to the wildlife and yet few seemed to care.

  4. :( poor birds, and the "it happens all the time" is the most scary part, insensitive they can be.

  5. What's really sad is that most good fisherman are able to avoid the birds. You should do something to get a sign posted so people know who to call. Most other people would have given up. I think it is nice that you took the time to save the bird.