Hook, Line & Sinker | Pelicans in harms way …..

Fishing line and pelicans don’t mix | by Doreen Damm …..

Fishing is a favorite past time enjoyed by both humans and pelicans alike. Unfortunately, a bad day for a fisherman usually means he lost his favorite lure when he had to cut his line. But, a bad day for the pelican is when it gets tangled up in that very same line and usually ends with a hook embedded in its pouch or wing inhibiting its ability to fly and eat. That’s when the calls start coming in to Owl’s Nest and get placed on dispatch for the next available volunteer to come to the rescue.

Our first story is about a Brown Pelican who’s pouch was hooked to its eyelid, leaving him helplessly floating in the water.

Brown Pelican hooked with fishing lure

This Brown Pelican was wrapped in fishing line with a fisherman’s prize lure hooked through his eyelid, attaching his pouch to his body.

This Brown Pelican was an emergency call, he was wrapped in fishing line with a lure hooked through the eyelid attaching his pouch to his body. Our team went into action and had it contained with in 15 minutes. They went to work to get the bulk of him loose so he wouldn’t rip his pouch or tear his eyelid while struggling to be freed of the fishing line.

After getting him to Owl’s Nest home base, Kris located and removed 4 more hooks throughout the body and wings of this beautiful seabird, plus a lot more of the monofilament fishing line. To avoid any serious eye injury, Kris opted to leave the one piece of hook (sharp edge removed) through the eyelid for the veterinarian staff at Busch Gardens and texted Dr. Pete of The Wildlife Docs for an appointment.
This poor pelican was cleaned up, had a patch put over the hole where the lure went into the pouch and then was given fluids and antibiotics. He was placed in the outside pen where he rested quietly under the canopy of a bottle brush tree. Always reminding us of a puppy, with their resilient attitude…juveniles immediately shake it off, and he was no different. All rested up, he couldn’t wait to eat devouring 7 medium rainbow trout!


The next day he went in so Dr Pete could remove the eyelid hook which miraculously missed his entire eyeball and believe it or not he found 2 more hooks for a total of 7.
Given disposable stitches long term and antibiotics, Kris was told he was ready to go. We called all the people that were there to help capture him they were beyond thrilled to see him returned to the wild.

Then only five days later we got the call, there were two Brown Pelicans hooked together floating under a dock. 

pelicans hooked together by a hard lure with two three prong hooks

These two pelicans are hooked on each other but not in a loving way, they are actually hooked together by a hard lure with two treble hooks

An Owl’s Nest volunteer, Heather Davies was up for the challenge. The complicated double rescue of the two Brown Pelicans required she partake in an unexpected, invigorating swim chest deep in salty, mucky, ice cold water. Being a wildlife rescue volunteer routinely means sacrificing your favorite shoes, dirtying up those just worn in jeans, but in a moment solely driven by the desire to rescue the stranded pelicans, she forgot her cell phone was still in her back pocket. Fortunately, both the Pelicans and her cell phone are all doing fine.

It took some doing to get the two treble hooks cut and removed and when all seemed to be well and done, a check of their over all health revealed a tear in the webbing of the wing on one of the pelicans proving that there is more damage done everyday by fishing hooks then getting hooks in the bills and down their throats. This being a large tear, required stitches and additional repair to the wing.

2018 02 04 Pelican fishing line 9

Watch this video link ( Flipagram Pelican Hook Video) to see just how entangled the two pelicans got by the hard lure with double treble hooks. With one hooked and twisted in the pouch of the first pelican and the other hooked inside the bill of the second pelican they were unable to fly or eat and would have starved to death if it was not for calls to Owl’s Nest to come to the rescue. Our friends at the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary gave them a safe place to heal before being set free.
This event happens more frequently than most people image. In the course of writing this blog, three more seabird calls came into Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife regarding a pelican in distress.

We are once again begging you to never cut the line on these poor seabirds and please pick up discarded fishing tackle, even if it isn’t yours!

“Catch Fish Not Pelicans” is a printable brochure with a helpful guide of “What to Do If You Hook a Pelican.” Click here to get your copy: Pelican Brochure

Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife is ran by a state and federally permitted wildlife rehabilitator and is a non-profit organization based in the Tampa Bay area serving Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas and counties staff solely by volunteers and financed 100% by donations.

There are several ways you can help, Click here to be apart of saving our native wildlife.  Thank you for your continued support. Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife is a registered 501 (c)(3) Non profit organization.


Owl’s Nest Sanctuary For Wildlife

(813) 598-5926

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State and Federally Licensed Rehab


Recipient of SeaWorld Busch Gardens Conservation Grant 2017-18


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