Story

Local Graytonite Rescues Pelican

March 15, 2013 by SoWal Staff

Here's a grayt story and photos of a recent Pelican rescue by our friend Edmond Alexander of Grayton Beach. When Edmond isn't rescuing local wildlife, he's painting it, or photographing it. Or he's down on the beach helping our local charter fishing Captains in the Grayton mosquito fleet launch their boats.

But Edmond's real job is world-class medical illustration and 3D animation from his studio on Western Lake. He may be the most talented artist in South Walton, but you won't see his work in a local gallery. Check it out at www.alexanderandturner.com. __________
For the past two weeks I have been trying to catch a Pelican who got his right wing tangled in a lot of fishing line and has been unable to fly. He spent most of the morning there which was not terrible unusual except that over the years many animals have sought rescue or just a quiet place to die on my dock. 

After watching him all morning I decided to check him out and see if he was able to fly. When I got about three feet from him he attempted to launch and fell right into the water.When he fell he exposed his underside and a large wad of monofilament (fishing line), a metal leader and a small weight which had his wing bound to his body. I knew that there had to be a hook buried in that mess.

From my dock he swam down the lake to the Parks shoreline and rested in the weeds at the edge of the lake. I tried to crank my small lake boat but it failed as it had been ignored much too long. That afternoon, evening and next day huge thunderstorms developed and by the second day the Pelican was nowhere to be found. A friend launches his small boat into the lake and we looked everywhere. There was no sign of the Pelican anywhere.

That was two weeks ago and I assumed that a kayaker or someone in a small boat must have found him and set him free.

Today when I launched Captain Larry, I saw a Pelican swimming in the cut of our lake, which was open. I studied him carefully with my binoculars and determined that it was indeed the injured Pelican. I attempted to sneak up on him but he took off running and flapping and went into the Gulf paddling hard. It was much too cold for me to attempt a water rescue.

At noon I went back out to retrieve Captain Larry and the Pelican had returned to the cut. I got some help from some young spring breakers who were in bathing suits. They formed a line into the surf and I walked the Pelican toward them. Suddenly he broke for the water but I was able to capture him in waist deep water.

Back on shore I removed two hooks from his wing including a fairly large treble hook with two of the barbs stuck solid in the muscles of his upper wing. The hooks were pulled in one quick motion, which spared as little pain as was possible. I then cut away about twenty feet of mono and a metal leader.

Before I left the beach I noticed that the Pelican had made it back up onto the warm beach to rest. I waded the cut to check on him taking pictures every few steps. I was allowed to walk right up to him and stopped for a last photo when he stood up and stretched his wings. Free at last.

I will be on the beach in the morning with a bag of frozen minnows.

Update Well golly gee. I was trying to get my small lake boat running this morning and noticed something swimming down our shoreline. Could it be? Yes it was. It was the rescued Pelican from yesterday and I watched him catching minnows along the shallow shoreline swimming toward me.

I was able to get to the house and gather the minnows that were thawing in the refrigerator just as he came swimming up to the dock and he spooked when he saw me. Short memory.

I pitched a cigar minnow to him and he quickly turned around and swam back for it. I fed him four more cigar minnows and he left to go touring the waters edge looking for more food...and probably glad to be free of that awful harness of hooks and fishing line.

Another Update This a good conclusion to the Pelican rescue. Yesterday the Pelican spent nearly all day in my cove feeding. I saw him catch a lot of fish besides the big cigar minnows that I pitched to him early in the morning.

Later in the day I was working on my small lake boat engine and saw him swimming down the OMP shoreline from the Spann's house. I went up to the house to get some thawed minnows for him in the refrigerator and by the time I got back to the dock he was already at my dock. I spooked him again but this time he jumped from the lake surface with wings flapping and became airborne.

He flew and glided to the other side of the lake which was a great thrill to me. Those hooks that I pulled from his upper wing were truly dreadful. When I pulled them I wondered how long it would restrict his flying. Now I know the he will be able to fly. I had worried about him being lake locked when the weather warms and the alligators are back looking for easy targets. 

All's well that ends well and flies free!

Editor's Note - not everyone is as skilled as Edmond, or as determined. If you see a bird or other animal in need of help, here are folks who can help. Just give them a call:
Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge 850-650-1880
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission ( NW Region Office in Panama City) 850-265-3676

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Offering news, features, insider tips & info, photos and video all across the South Walton area.

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