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This new painting and collection is inspired by the natural beauty of an incredible brown pelican I recently had the pleasure of meeting at the International Bird Rescue center in LA. Sadly this beautiful bird suffered severe wing injury caused by fishing hook entanglement. She has been going through physical therapy and treatments for several months.
Over 150,000 birds are injured or killed each year by fishing lines and fishing hooks. When a bird gets entangled in the fishing line, they go through a painful struggle. Birds suffer permanent damage to skin, feathers, muscles, nerves, and bones from the line as they fight to escape. Entangled birds are often entrapped and can't find food or escape from predators. Even the birds that are lucky enough to be rescued, they have a very low chance of survival. Fortunately this beautiful Pelican was lucky to be rescued by International Bird Rescue.
See below for my interview with Kylie Clatterbuck, Southern California Wildlife Center Manager, and Julie Skoglund, Director of Operations from the International Bird Rescue and discover the story of this amazing Pelican.
Q: How old is the pelican with the injured wing due to fishing hook entanglement and how long has she been at IBR?
A: She is a second year pelican (~2yr old). She came into care on 10/20/21
Q: How did she got there? Where was she rescued from and how she was reported and brought to the IBR center?
A: She was transferred to us by California Wildlife Center (CWC) after a rescuer found her hanging out at a campground in Malibu, unable to fly (CWC transfers most of their aquatic birds to us)
Q: What was the severity of her condition when she first arrived at IBR?
A: This bird suffered severe injuries to both her left and right wing (humerus area) due to fishing hooks. The wounds were old and filled with sand. The wounds caused reduced range of motion and significant wing droops due to necrotic skin and muscle. She was also very emaciated and dehydrated since her injuries prevented her from being able to feed appropriately.
Q: Would it have helped her condition if she was found and brought to the center sooner?
A: I do believe it may have helped if she were found sooner. The older the wound, the more soft tissue has time to necrose and cause infection. While she still would have 2 large wounds, the amount of tendon, tissues, and muscle death would likely have been less severe if we got her sooner. The bird would also have been in better overall health if found sooner since there would have been less time for her to become so emaciated and dehydrated.
Q: What are some of the medical procedures she has had so far, for example surgery, etc…
A: This bird has had several surgical debridements- meaning we anesthetize the bird and cleaned out the wounds including removing all the necrotic tissue. We clean the wounds thoroughly and apply topical treatments to help the wounds heal faster. The bird has also been on antibiotics to help prevent infection. Our veterinarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr, was able to close one of the wounds with sutures after it was thoroughly cleaned. We have also needed to provide her with supportive wing wraps to help improve her wing droop. Currency the bird is receiving physical therapy which includes encouraging the bird to exercise to help rebuild the lost muscle and to reduce the scar tissue caused by the wounds. We are also doing a more advanced physical therapy that solely focuses on the current wing droop and improving the muscle strength needed to rebuild the atrophied bicep that was affected by the injury. We will continually assess her flight ability and be looking for evenness in the birds flapping motions, overall strength in flight, and any lame subtleties that may affect her overall ability to survive in the wild. Pelicans need to effectively dive to fish for food and some travel far distances to migrate and nest.
Q: What caused her injury? How can fishing hooks cause such injuries and in general the severity of fishing hooks injuring birds.
A: Birds can become entangled in fishing lines and fish hooks many different ways. They can get caught up when “stealing” catches from fisherman, or from line and hooks left on piers and beaches rather than being properly disposed of. The line can wrap around limbs easily, causing constriction and the hooks get caught up in their skin or even swallowed when eating the caught fish. The severity of fish hook wounds can vary from small minimal skin or pouch tears or temporary loss of circulation of limbs that recover fairly quickly after line removal. They can also cause severe skin lacerations requiring surgical intervention and even limb death from circulation loss.
Q: How often do you get birds in the center that are injured due to fishing hooks
A: Fishing hook and line injuries are a common occurrence at our Los Angeles center. In 2021, we had 66 cases of fishing hook and line entanglement and in 2020 we have over 80
Q: How likely are they to survive after fishing hook injury
A: Many times the injuries are treatable with basic (but intense) wound management and sometimes surgical intervention, but there are cases where the bird cannot recover and humane euthaniasia is the most reasonable option.
Q: How can individuals help to prevent birds from getting injured by fishing hooks
A: We can help spread awareness to individuals to clean up after themselves by properly disposing of used fishing line and hooks. Many fishing piers have trash cans or special bins for this purpose. We can also help by carefully picking up trash along the beach and walking paths to help mitigate the issue.