May 9, 2011

Surfers Rescue Entangled Pelican - Santa Cruz

Sadly, it wasn't until 3:45 that we were first notified of a pelican, entangled in fishing line, struggling in the water off the coast of Santa Cruz - about 50 yards offshore near Natural Bridges. Apparently it had been there for hours, trying to fly, only to be pulled back into the choppy sea. 

Had it been a human stuck to the ocean floor, i imagine there would have been a rescue boat or lifeguard on scene without delay... but no such luck for this mature, female brown pelican.

Thankfully, by 5:30, we were lucky enough to find two local surfers, Bill, and Geoff, who were willing to paddle out and retrieve the poor animal. Check out the video of their heroic efforts HERE

She was in bad shape. Weak and in shock from having struggled so long. We took just a few seconds to quickly cut three strands of line that bound her one wing to her left leg, relieving her from some pain. Birds in this bad of shape must not be handled any more than absolutely necessary - they are exhausted and need rest away from any threats, including humans. 

She was then transported to a nearby care center where, miraculously, she survived the night. We expect her to be transferred to International Bird Rescue for further rehabilitative care. 

She's not 'out of the woods' yet - her experience could still prove fatal. There's something called exertional, or capture, myopathy - it's over exertion or struggle, which can cause animals to die, even days later. There is no cure, only prevention. That's why animals must never be 'chased down', and rescuers must do everything possible to limit stress.

This rescue highlights the need for Santa Cruz to have its very own Wildlife Search and Rescue Team with a special water recovery unit for situations like this one. We'll be working with locals, the surfing community and kayak groups to recruit and train members for this exclusive team. Those interested in becoming involved should email us.

A HUGE thank you to Bill, Geoff, and Bonnie
for helping to save this magnificent bird.

UPDATE 5/13/11

We were notified that the pelican has made her journey to International Bird Rescue and arrived very feisty and in good shape. She is on antibiotics, pain meds and pool time to help with her swollen leg.  

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