The Release Files: Pelican’s Slashed Pouch Ends On A Happy Note
Earlier this summer, our Los Angeles wildlife center received a female Brown Pelican from Ventura Harbor with injuries consistent with being slashed by a sharp object, very reminiscent of the injuries of Pink the Pelican, a case of ours from 2014. We reported the bird to US Fish and Wildlife Service as a likely animal cruelty case.
This new bird had a completely severed pouch, with straight cuts all the way back to behind her eyes on both sides (see image). She also had a razor-straight laceration on her right leg that cut deep into the muscle, but she was still able to stand and was in generally good condition. Like Pink, her pouch was stapled together temporarily so she could eat and regain her strength before surgery. It was repaired in one long surgical procedure instead of two as Pink’s was because the injury was, inches-wise, smaller than Pink’s– the bird was smaller overall, and the cut was angled through the pouch differently. The leg laceration was already infected when the bird arrived, but healed great with a combination of partial surgical closure and open wound management. The pouch repair healed fabulously in about two weeks.
Whenever one is keeping a wild animal in a cage there is a risk every day that the animal will hurt itself. When an animal nears readiness to be released it becomes more active and eager to get out, and the probability that it may hurt itself in its caging rises. This particular bird was very stressed in captivity, and was noticed to be limping one morning. At first we assumed her slashed leg was becoming infected again, but we quickly saw that the leg she was favoring was her formerly uninjured leg…uh oh! X-rays revealed that she had broken her femur near her hip joint while in the aviary. We don’t know how it happened or whether we could have done anything to prevent it, but this accident set the bird’s potential release date back substantially. She spent several weeks floating quietly in a private pool while her leg healed, which it did, and nicely, although when she first started walking again she had a very pronounced limp. Since then she has been becoming increasingly annoyed with us as we have waited for her limp to resolve sufficiently for her to be released. Currently, she is a super agile flier and stands and perches very normally, although she still has a mild limp when she walks; we expect this will fade with time as her fracture healed with excellent alignment.
We are extremely happy to announce that this beautiful girl who faced multiple serious threats to her life was finally released! With her shiny new blue plastic band N41, she returned to the wild on Saturday, September 17th at White Point in San Pedro. Please cheer her on if you see her out fishing off the coast. And also please report the sighting on our website so we can know she is out there doing well, back being a wild Brown Pelican.