After two years of treatment, this pelican was eager to return home.

On August 23, 2019, a young Brown Pelican was admitted to the hospital, emaciated, and with a hook injury to her right-wing. Sadly, these types of injuries are not uncommon at South Florida Wildlife Center (SFWC).

When birds and turtles get caught by fishing hooks, and the line is cut instead of being removed, or ingest live or dead fish with hooks still embedded in them, the results can be deadly. Depending on where the hook is lodged and how tight the fishing line is wrapped around the patient often determines if treatment and release back to the wild is possible. Release is always our goal for hook and line patients that come through our doors.

Fortunately, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has put many initiatives in place to help prevent injuries like these by providing resources for anglers and the general public about how to remove and dispose of fishing hooks and monofilament line responsibly.

For the Center, veterinarian Dr. Carolina Medina, Board Certified Specialist in Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, and patient 19-9023, it was an almost two-year journey of medical treatments and physical therapy before this iconic South Florida brown pelican was able to fly free again.

At first, her wound appeared to be healing, but she was not regaining full movement in her wing. The team came together and drew up new treatment plans to address the complexity of her injury and her mobility issues. Physical therapy and laser treatments, generously donated by Dr. Medina, proved essential to getting this pelican on the road to recovery. Over the next year and a half, she underwent many bandage changes, daily physical therapy, and was under constant observation until the veterinary and rehabilitation staff at SFWC felt comfortable she was ready for an independent life back in the wild.

On April 14, 2021, SFWC staff transported this patient, fondly nicknamed Medina, to Pelican Harbor Seabird Station (PHSS). Medina was released behind PHSS’s campus and flew to a rookery nearby where other pelicans were. Everyone let out a massive sigh of relief when she flew well and seemed to fit right in with her new family. A HUGE thank you to all the volunteers and staff who helped care for this special patient while at SFWC and PHSS for watching over her in her new home!