Vet Files: Pelican Pouch Laceration
On January 27, we received a female adult Brown Pelican with a very large pouch laceration affecting the entire right side of her pouch. She was captured by two awesome local fishermen who have rescued injured birds to bring to us before—they noticed the large hole in her pouch and realized she needed help. Pelicans with large injuries to their pouch are generally completely unable to eat since all the fish they catch fall out. The birds slowly starve while trying to eat.
When this lady came to us, she was very skinny and very hungry. Our staff used skin staples to temporarily close the hole in her pouch while she replenished herself on our menu. Once she was medically more stable, we prepared for a long surgical procedure.
Our veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Duerr invited her husband (also a wildlife vet), Dr. Guthrum Purdin, to come stitch from the other end and meet in the middle, which worked out quite well! The wound had a badly damaged area that lead to the removal of a piece of the pouch and the surgeons taking a tuck, and a short section near the bill tip that was left open due to its closeness to the mandible. Despite being only about 1mm thick, pelican pouch heals fastest if it is sutured in two layers with fussy small stitches, which makes it time-consuming to repair but reduces the amount of time the bird has to stay in captivity. We are reasonably confident this wound was caused by a fish hook ripping the tissue.
At the bird’s checkup last week, the sutures were almost ready to come out and this now feisty lady was flying really well out in our aviary. We are happy to report that she is doing great and we expect to release her as soon as the incision has fully healed!