Nov 14, 2012

Another Day At The Beach

By Deanna Barth

With rain in the forecast for Friday, I decided to do my rounds today, instead. This time I started at the Monterey Coast Guard Pier. As I searched the area, I picked up several pieces of loose fishing line but saw no pelicans.

Next, I drove toward the Municipal Wharf and was pleased to see 30+ pelicans diving for fish, just a few yards off Del Monte Beach. I stood on the beach, mesmorized by the powerful splashing as they each dove into the water. They all appeared to be healthy.

I walked along the pier and around the wharf and didn't see a single pelican.

My next stop was Fisherman’s Wharf, where I'd been finding most of the injured pelicans lately.

As expected, there were a number of young pelicans gathered near the fish cleaning stations, 
resting on the railings and on the docks. I was really pleased, every one of them looked fantastic. No bite wounds or hooks or line entanglements.

I put my bag back over my shoulder, preparing to leave, when I heard the whooshing of a pelican landing behind me.

I turned to look… and cringed. There on the railing was a pelican, balancing on its left leg and having difficulty remaining upright. Fishing line draping over its back and a silver weight dangling behind him, glistening in the sun.

I quickly put my bag down, pulled out my fish, and approached slowly. Thankfully this bird was eager for a meal and lunged for my hand. It was easy to grab.

I transported him to the SPCA wildlife center where staff noted at least 4 hooks and line entangling this poor bird.

I left, knowing he was in excellent hands.  (Thanks Evan!)

On my way home, I decided to take a detour. Earlier in the week I had seen a pelican at Moss Landing that concerned me. It showed classic signs of domoic acid toxicity. It was sitting awkwardly, weaving its head back and forth, and appeared confused, but when it saw me approaching it became frantic and flew to the water. I tried baiting it, but no luck - it showed no interest in food.

When I arrived, I was shocked at the number of pelicans on the breakwater! It was going to be like finding a needle in a haystack, I thought. 

Starting at the very end of the jetty, I began scanning each bird, looking for unusual behavior. I didn’t have to look long before spotting a very obvious bird in trouble. It was an adult pelican, like the one I'd seen days before, and it was hunkered down in the sand facing away from the water. It looked wet and appeared very weak.

Based on the bird's behavior and body posture, I decided less would be more. No need for bait or even a net.

The poor bird only opened its eyes every so often to see if I was still around. I waited, and when its eyes closed I walked away to position myself directly behind it and hopefully out of its line of sight. Then I waited. 

The pelican opened its eyes again, turned its head slowly, and when it seemed sure that I was gone it settled again.

I began to close in on the bird. When I was just about on top of it, it saw me and made a feeble attempt to snap at my arms. As I scooped it up, it barely had any strength to resist. It was wet, cold, and covered in lice. 

Back at the vehicle I placed the pelican in a crate, placed warming packs around its cold body and draped a sheet over it to help bring up its temperature. Usually, with adult wild animals, we need to keep our transport vehicles cool, but for this one, I had to have the heater on for the 25-mile journey back to the wildlife center. 

I called the wildlife center the following morning to see if it survived the night. It had, but its temperature was still below normal.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great rescue, Deanna! Sending good thoughts and warmest wishes to the pelican for a speedy recovery. Good luck, little guy!