LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – A pelican with a hard wire lodged through its neck is on its way to recovery after a rescue mission on Lake Morton Tuesday.
“It was in distress but not serious distress because it was feeding normally, preening normally,” said Michael “Mookie” Wilson, a local photographer who lives near Lake Morton.
Wilson heard about the pelican on Facebook and went to see it for himself.
Once he did, he quickly sprung into action, reaching out to his wildlife contacts to help.
“I’m an outdoorsman. I love all kinds of wildlife, especially birds. Ever since I’ve been a kid, I’ve had a fondness for birds of all sorts,” he said. “Love the earth. Love the environment. Love to protect it.”
Eventually, Wilson was in contact with Lynn Zablo and Clyde Clause, registered bird rehabilitators from Odessa, Florida.
“I have stalked a bird for six hours,” said Clause.
They have years of experience netting sick and injured birds so they can be rehabilitated.
The pair visited Lake Morton on Monday to get accustomed to the set up.
“We just came out to assess the situation where the bird was hanging out, if we’d be able to shoot the net over it without hurting any other birds and aware of all the swans and everything,” said Zablo.
Lake Morton is known for its flock of swans but many other bird species call Lake Morton and surrounding lakes home.
Once the pelican had hopped on a wall, Clause fired his net.
It netted not only the injured bird, but three others as well.
Clause and Zablo had to jump in the water to bring the net to shore and untangle the three other birds.
“They were trying to eat us the whole time,” said Clause after they were both bitten by pelicans.
While the pelican appeared to be unbothered by the wire, experts feared it would get infected or snagged on something, it’s believed the male pelican swallowed a bucket.
It will now be taken to Busch Gardens for x-rays and surgery and will recover at Raptor Center of Tampa Bay before being released back to its flock.
“It’s wonderful to see these guys come out and do it. My main concern was getting it done quick so we could get it back to its flock mates because they’re gonna go back up north because they’re migratory,” said Wilson.
For Clause and Zablo, it’s another reminder why this is their passion.
“I can’t explain the feeling it gives you. Anytime somebody rescues a bird, I try to let them release it. You have to feel it. You can’t tell anybody or describe it. You just get addicted and hooked on it,” said Zablo.
“It’s a rush to be able to get the bird,” said Clause. “Ones that are in dire need, it just feels good.”