Rescued pelican, seriously injured by fishing lure, to be released this week back to the wild 

white pelican

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Photo by Sandrine Biziaux-Scherson

After inspiring community concern – and thanks to a concerted team effort on the part of local Audubon chapters, the Newport Beach Police Department, Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center, and International Bird Rescue – an injured American White Pelican has made a full recovery and is set to be released back into the wild on Thursday, Jan. 25.

The pelican caught the public’s attention in November 2017 with a severely fractured mandible and a foot entangled in a fishing lure. After the pelican was spotted at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, several rescue attempts were made; but all were unsuccessful until the pelican landed in the driveway of a Newport Beach residence, weak and disoriented. That was when Newport Beach Police Department Animal Control Officer Nick Ott was able to capture the bird and get it quickly transported to the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center, where it received stabilizing care and had the fishing lure carefully removed. 

Volunteers then transported the pelican to International Bird Rescue (Bird Rescue) to have its injuries treated by their team of wildlife experts including staff veterinarian Rebecca Duerr, DVM, MPVM, Ph.D. 

When the pelican arrived at Bird Rescue, it was extremely thin, anemic, and suffering from multiple critical neck and foot wounds plus a grisly lower jaw fracture. All of these injuries are suspected to be the result
of fishing lure entanglement, making this a unique case. 

“I have seen a lot of horrible wounds from this type of lure before, but this is the first time I’ve seen a bird fracture its jaw due to one,” Dr. Duerr said. 

The specialized care from Bird Rescue’s team has enabled this pelican to thrive and nearly double its weight over an intensive two-month recovery. During its treatment, this patient captured the hearts of many and was included on the roster of candidates for 2017 Bird of the Year in hopes of drawing attention to the challenges of fishing line and fish hook entanglement. 

Executive Director JD Bergeron added, “We are grateful for the actions of the people that found this pelican and for all the organizations that collaborated to rescue it. We can all do a bit more to keep an eye out for wildlife in danger and to remove dangerous litter like fish hooks.” 

Bird Rescue is excited to share the wonderful news of this patient’s recovery, and to invite all those who are interested to come take part in its upcoming release back into the wild. The release takes place Thursday, Jan. 25 at 12 p.m. at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, 5 Riparian View, Irvine. Parking is available on site.