Brown Pelican Found Wrapped in Fishing Line

A brown pelican was among the 84 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a black vulture, a white ibis, a black-and-white warbler, a gopher tortoise and three marsh rabbits.

The brown pelican was rescued by beach-goers near the Naples Pier. The pelican was wrapped in line and had a fish hook in its right wing near the elbow. Aside from the laceration and inflammation caused by the hook, the pelican was in fairly decent condition. The hook was removed upon admission to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. A radiograph confirmed the pelican had not ingested any hooks. Staff administered electrolytes, an antibiotic, vitamin supplement and Chinese herbs. After the pelican was stabilized, staff offered the pelican fish which were eagerly eaten.

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Along with daily wound treatments the pelican spends time in the water therapy area in the bird room. Each day brings improvement; once the laceration on the wing is fully healed the pelican will be moved to the outdoor shorebird recovery pool.

Fishing line and hook injuries can cause serious injuries and often result in the need for very detailed treatment and rehabilitation. Help prevent hook and line injuries. If you or someone you know participates in angling activities, be responsible. Never cast your line if birds are flying nearby. 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 hooks and line.

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 the skin 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.

Special Thanks

A swallow-tailed kite release last week required a coordinated effort among several conservation entities who deserve recognition for their efforts. Private land owner Dick Brewer allowed staff from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) and Wildlife Hospital Volunteer Brian Beckner, owner of Native Bird Boxes, Inc. access to his property so the young kite could be released where a large number of swallow-tailed kites were congregating prior to their northern migration. The release tested the patience and stamina of all involved but finally after an hour, the kite took flight and joined scores of kites that had already taken to the sky. There is no doubt — wildlife benefits when like-minded entities collaborate.

Recent Releases

Eight eastern cottontails, a Florida softshell turtle, a red-shouldered hawk, four peninsula cooters, five blue jays, three northern mockingbirds, a royal tern, a purple martin, a Virginia opossum and a boat-tailed grackle were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital offers many opportunities for volunteer assistance. Currently we are in need of people to volunteer as Critter Couriers. Critter Couriers transport injured, sick and orphaned animals to our hospital when members of the public are unable to do so. Volunteer Critter Couriers are vital to our mission. If you believe you would like to get involved please visit the Conservancy website at to view all of the amazing volunteer opportunities at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Your volunteer time helps 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

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

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