Brown Pelican Rescued from Fishing Line

provided by Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife

Southwest Florida is a fisherman’s paradise. The fisheries surrounding Sanibel and Captiva islands hold many species of game fish that are sought after by recreational fisherman from around the world. In Florida, recreational fishing (both saltwater and freshwater) has an economic impact of $11.5 billion according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The abundance of fish also provides food for a wide variety of wildlife. One of the most iconic fish-eating animals on Florida’s coasts is the brown pelican. Brown pelicans frequent the same fishing spots as many anglers, sometimes to hunt on their own and sometimes to score a free meal from the fisherman. These interactions between fisherman and pelicans can often lead to negative consequences for the pelican.

On November 23, a brown pelican was admitted to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) after it was accidentally hooked with a fishing lure. The treble hooks from the lure were embedded in the joint of the bird’s left leg. As a result, the pelican’s leg was significantly swollen. Veterinarians easily removed hooks and lure, but the damage it left needed to be treated.

“The hook was removed, but infection had taken root in the puncture wound, resulting in severe inflammation of the foot,” says Dr. Robin Bast, CROW’s staff veterinarian. “The bird had decreased ability to move that joint, and was lame on that foot.”

Veterinarians elected to treat the bird aggressively by performing multiple regional limb perfusion treatments over the course of the first week in clinic. Every few days, the bird was anesthetized, a tourniquet was placed on the affected leg, and a dose of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications were injected directly into the vein in that leg. The tourniquet is left in place for 10 minutes, allowing concentrations of the drugs to be effective locally at the site of the injury.

“RLP is commonly used in horses, and can also be used in people,” says Dr. Bast. “This procedure is commonly performed at CROW in our avian patients, and can be life-saving in terms of treating severe infections, particularly those caused by hook and line injuries.”

At this point, the pelican is making gradual progress. It continues to receive systemic antibiotics and pain medication, which is placed in the fish that the pelican eats. As the infection clears, the swelling of the joint will keep going down, allowing it to regain the full use of its foot.

CROW is part of an initiative called Mind Your Line, a collaborative effort among Sanibel-Captiva conservation organizations to reduce the amount of monofilament line and fishing gear left in the environment. Additionally, the group works to educate anglers about ways they can prevent injuries like this from occurring and what to do if they accidentally hook a bird. To learn how to unhook a bird, find monofilament recycling stations or report fishing line or tackle in the environment, please visit

THIS WEEK AT CROW (11/25-12/1):
There were 62 new patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital including 12 eastern cottontail rabbits, six double-crested cormorants, three brown pelicans, two eastern screech owls, two green sea turtles, a white pelican and a cattle egret. Recent Releases include green heron, an eastern screech owl, an evening bat and a red-shouldered hawk. Check out a full list of CROW’s current patients and recent releases!

Wildlife doesn’t have health insurance! Your donations help cover the costs of medical and rehabilitative care for over 5,000 patients admitted to CROW’s Wildlife Hospital each year!

Want to learn more about wildlife rehabilitation? Stop by CROW’s Visitor Education Center at 3883 Sanibel Captiva Road.

About Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
Established in 1968, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) is a teaching hospital saving the sick, injured and orphaned native and migratory wildlife of Southwest Florida and beyond.  Through state-of-the-art veterinary care, public education programs and an engaging visitor center, CROW works to improve the health of the environment, humans and our animals through wildlife medicine. For more information, or to plan your visit, go to If you find an animal that is in need of help, call (239) 472-3644 ext. #222.

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