tips to help our pelican friends pelicans! · shot for amusement or under the misconception that...
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Catching a fish is more fun than catching a pelican. With just a little extra attention to your surroundings, you and your pelican friends can both have a great day out on the water. The American brown pelican is now a common sight on the coast. Although it has few natural enemies, by the 1960’s the pelican was in serious trouble due to human activity: either shot for amusement or under the misconception that pelicans eat more than their share of fish. The truth is, their diet consists of fish species considered unimportant commercially. Once placed on the Endangered Species List, the pelican has made a comeback but is still under Federal protection.
A Brown pelican has such keen eyesight it can spot a single fish from 70 feet in the air. Plunge-diving for fish is their specialty. After surfacing and draining its pouch, the well-deserved catch is consumed. It is a large bird with an ample wingspan, but the pelican is mostly feathers and hollow bones, exquisitely designed to be a relatively lightweight, agile and expert flier.
In this day and age, entanglement in fishing gear may be their number one enemy, leading to slow death from starvation. Sebastian Inlet records over 100 injured or dead pelicans a year. Bony fish scraps are also a killer, tearing the pouch or lodging in the throat. Feeding pelicans draws pelicans to fishing areas and puts them in danger. Shorebirds, storks, herons, terns and gulls are also casualties. In order to give each pelican the chance to mature and reproduce, each of us can do our part to help.
TIPS TO HELP our pelican friends
1. When fishing, never cast towards any bird.
2. Cast with care. Casting near any bird only increases the chances of hooking one. Remember birds cannot distinguish between your lure and the real deal. Birds go for fish on the surface of the water or just below it, not on the bottom where your big fish are. So cast away from groups of birds. If birds are nearby wait until they pass to cast your line. The few minutes you may wait is shorter than the time it would take to untangle your line from a hooked bird.
3. When cleaning your fish, throw carcasses in the trashcans provided. Pelicans are adapted to feeding on small fish and have problems swallowing large fish. Carcass bones may get caught in the pouch or throat, leading to infection, starvation, and a slow death.
4. It is illegal to feed wildlife in all state parks. Feeding causes them to lose their ability to hunt for themselves.
5. Always discard monofilament line in recycling bins. Birds and other wildlife become entangled leading to entrapment, strangulation, starvation, loss of limb, or subject to easy predation..
6. It is unlawful to leave your fishing pole unattended as accidental entanglement may occur.
7. Lead or zinc weighted jigs, lures, and tackle, are toxic and deadly, instead use stainless steel, tin, tungsten, copper, pewter or brass; porcelain or stone.
How to help’em if you hook’em
If you’ve caught too many bait fish...don’t leave them there to die...throw them back in for the next time!
Paintings and photographs by Don Schuster.Text by Karen Schuster.Layout by Bob Montanaro
This pamplet has been produced by
Pelican Island Audubon Societywww.pelicanislandaudubon.org772-567-3520With the generous help fromRanger Terese HarberSebastian Inlet State Parkwww.floridaparks.org321-984-4852
What to do if you hook a pelicanAlthough the wingspan is up to 7.5 –feet, the pelican weighs ONLY 8-10 pounds and thus is manageable.
1. IMPORTANT, never cut the line if you catch a pelican.
2. First, reel the bird in slowly.
3. Cover the head with a towel or blanket if available. This helps calm the bird.
4. Next, place one hand over the towel to locate and hold the beak while keeping the beak ajar for breathing as pelicans have no nostrils. Wrap your other arm around its body while folding the wings into a natural position.
5. NEVER pull a hook out without first removing the barb. Doing so can cause severe injury to the bird. Carefully push the barb forward to expose it and cut the barb off with wire cutters. Then back the rest of the hook out.
6. Then back the rest of the hook out.
7. Remove any fishing line from the bird’s body. Deposit monofilament in recycling bins.
8. If the bird is not seriously wounded, release it immediately
DO NOT attempt to handle egrets or storks as their sharp large beaks can inflict serious injury. If the bird is seriously injured, swallowed the hook, or you need help, keep the head covered and pleaseCall the Ranger Station for help: North (321) 984-4852 or South (772) 589-9659.