hooks and monofilament line
Fishing injuries are among the most devastating. Monofilament line cuts deeply, winding around legs, often causing such neurological damage that the pelican has to be euthanized. Hooks wound cruelly but usually can be removed without lasting damage. This young pelican, with an unusually sweet disposition, was found recently in Port Hueneme. Care Hospital, 301 East Haley Street, Santa Barbara, removed the monofilament line that was cutting deeply into her right leg and volunteer rehabilitator June Taylor of the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network (SBWCN) medicated. Because of the cut's depth, prognosis is uncertain.
Oil tankers pass within a mile of the California Brown Pelican breeding ground on Anacapa Island. Offshore oil wells spot the coast. As beachgoers know, oil seeps occur in many places along the Santa Barbara shoreline. Skilled and intense washing of feathers, Dawn the detergent of choice, and rehabilitation can restore essential waterproofing, but it is time-intensive work.
The International Bird Rescue Research Center (IBRRC) is a world leader in oiled bird care, sponsoring training classes for volunteers as well as being a location for hands-on care in a state of the art facility. Santa Barbara was the site of the largest oil spill on the west coast in 1969 when a Union Oil platform 6 miles offshore blew out. Click here for UCSB Geography Department photos.
is a continuing potential problem. However, it is thrilling to know that
since the banning of of DDT and DDE in the 1970's and the protection of
the California Brown Pelicans under state and federal Endangered Species
Acts, the population has rebounded. That good
news causes Jane Goodall to carry with her a brown pelican feather, companion
to a condor feather, each a symbol of what can and has been done to save
Almost unimaginable but sadly too real are vicious maimings that periodically erupt in Southern California. In 2003, IBRRC with assistance from other organizations posted a sizeable reward of $25,500 for information. The SBWCN also has a reward promise outstanding. Penalties for harm are severe: All seabirds are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; California Brown Pelicans receive stringent protection under the Endangered Species Acts.
What can we do to help?
Never feed pelicans (or other seabirds) hanging around for a handout at fishing piers. Pelicans quickly lose their fear and begin to beg. The photogenic birds delight but sooner or later many of those friendly birds will get hooked — and, as a result, inevitably many will die painful deaths. Gently encourage locals and tourists to not feed the birds by pointing out it encourages the birds to hang around ... and get hooked.
Recommend the use of barbless hooks for fishing. Not only are they better for the fish but they are much easier to remove from the hooked seabird. The use is controversial (click here for some of the arguments) but California does require them for some fishing situations.
up any monofilament line and dispose of it where seabirds can not get
entrapped. Watch out for any cruelty and report, depending where it's
observed, to the Harbor Patrol or police or Fish and Wildlife Service.
Publicity can encourage local authorities to act; pictures (digital, with
identification dates and verification) can be very helpful in prosecutions.
© Betsy Robertson Cramer, 2004, all rights reserved.