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August 8, 2006

In line of peril

Entangled juvenile Brown Pelican rescued in Redondo Beach also was shot

San Pedro, CA


juvenile pelican rescued at Redondo Beach because of fishing line entanglement was found to also have been shot.  The wildlife experts at International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) in San Pedro did radiographs to determine the extent of injury caused by the fishing line and three fish hooks imbedded in the birds body and were shocked to discover two bullets lodged in the bird’s chest and wing. 

The young brown pelican, an endangered species, was examined by IBRRC Assistant Rehabilitation Manager, Erin Kellogg who speculated the young pelican was most likely shot and then became entangled in line.  Redondo Beach’s Pier allows fishing without a license and many anglers are not aware that when they hook a pelican and cut the line, it leads to a slow death for the bird.  Shooting of an endangered species is a Federal offense.

The young pelican was rescued by Whale Rescue Team founder Peter Wallerstein who rushed the bird to IBRRC’s bird hospital in San Pedro.  Unknown numbers of California Brown Pelicans have died this year due to domoic acid poisoning and starvation.  Fishing line/hook injuries increase dramatically during the summer months when people head to public piers along the coast to cast their lines. Fishing line/hook injuries are serious and expensive to treat because many require surgery, long term care and antibiotic treatment.  Unknown numbers of animals are impacted and die slow painful deaths. 

IBRRC has cared for a record number of pelicans this year, over 300, and has been struggling to get in enough donations to pay the bill for fish, which is almost $40,000.  Members of the public who would like to help IBRRC help the pelicans can do so through several different adoption programs.  For more information, see the adopt a bird area in IBRRC's website or call Ann Yusada at 707-207-0380 extension 109. 

Fishing can cause much needless suffering and death to seabirds, mammals and even fish when lines and hooks are not used and disposed of properly.  Monofilament line, nets and hooks should be considered lethal weapons.  Lines should never be cut and allowed to drift in the ocean and care should be taken with fishing around pelicans and other seabirds.  Unfortunately, millions of seabirds die every year from the pollution caused by discarded nets and line. Here are some recommendations from IBRRC’s webpage, “Fishing around Pelicans:”

1. Switch to barbless hooks. The use of barbless hooks works well for getting hooks out of birds and it has been proven that very few fish ever get away because a hook is barbless and causes less harm to fish that are caught and released.

2. Never discard used lines over the side of the boat or leave it where you've fished. Please dispose of it properly and if you can't find a receptacle close by, just carry it out with you and dispose of it properly. Monofilament line entanglement is a slow and painful death. If you ever see lines or hooks in the water, on the beach, or anywhere in the environment, pick it up and cut it into little pieces before disposing of it.

3. Avoid casting when seabirds are in the area, you may avoid having to reel in a hooked one and having to deal with it.

If you hook or find a hooked bird, here’s how to help it:

1. In California, contact IBRRC or a local wildlife rehabilitation center near you.  Many lifeguards and pier managers know who to call for help.  Never just walk away from a hooked bird -- Get help!

2. NEVER just cut the line, leaving some of the mono filament, it can kill the bird and other birds can get wrapped in it as well.

3. Get someone to help you. It is just about impossible to do the job of holding the bird and removing the hook and/or line alone. Use a lot of common sense and caution. Birds will instinctively go for your eyes with their beaks.

4. Figure out how you can safely capture the bird. If you have a large poled net, you can use that. Or, drop a cast net over the bird, being careful not to bend and break the feathers. Don't try and lift or pull the bird by the hooked line! It will cause the bird to struggle from pain and you'll just set the hook and cause more damage.

5. Get control of the birds head, but don't hold the bill shut. Pelicans can't breathe if their bills are held shut. Grasp the bird's bill with your hands and keep a hold on it, before removing it from the net. If you have a towel or heavy shirt available you can cover the bird's head to help calm it.

6. Untangle the bird and make sure you get it all lines off. If there are no hooks in the bird, carefully release it while protecting your face. If the bird is too weak to fly, get it to a wildlife rehabilitation center for medical treatment.

7. If a hook is embedded in the flesh, gently push it through until you can see the barb. Clip the barb off and pull the hook back out. Be careful to cover the hook before you cut it, the hook could fly into your face while being cut. If you leave the hook or barb in the bird it will die from infection. Switch to barbless hooks.

8. If the hook is through bone or the bird is bleeding badly or seems very lethargic and non-aggressive it is already in serious condition and will need professional help. Do not release the bird, but call IBRRC or your local wildlife rehabilitator and get it help as quickly as possible. Never keep the bird and try and treat it yourself, it is illegal to do so.

See also:

Pelican's in peril

IBRRC has been helping birds around the world since 1971. Its mission is to mitigate human impact on aquatic birds and other wildlife. This is achieved through rehabilitation, emergency response, education, research, planning and training.

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