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CROW released white pelican treated for red tide poisoning

By Staff | Feb 22, 2019

TIFFANY REPECKI The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife on Sanibel released an adult white pelican on Feb. 20.

The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife on Sanibel recently released an adult white pelican.

On Feb. 20, the rehabilitated bird was taken to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and let free along Wildlife Drive as lucky park visitors watched on. A bit shy about exiting the traveling crate at first, the pelican eventually waddled out then spent several minutes taking in its surroundings, before inching closer to the water’s edge and flying off to join a group of its kind basking in the sun.

“It’s one of the biggest highlights of our job to work with one of the creatures you don’t work with that often,” certified veterinary technician Missy Fox said. “We don’t get many of these white pelicans.”

She noted that the species is feistier than the more common brown pelicans.

“They’ll snap at you,” Fox laughed.

Missy Fox

The pelican had been admitted to the clinic about two weeks earlier, she said. It was picked up by a person near Mile Marker 2 on Sanibel, who called CROW and brought it in cause it was lethargic.

“Basically, she was just lying there,” Fox said.

She noted that staff were uncertain if the pelican would survive the night.

Tests revealed that the bird had a severe case of brevetoxicosis, also known as red tide poisoning. It received several days of IV treatments, along with supplemental feedings. It was also put on antibiotics and pain medications during its recovery, and staff also treated the pelican for gastrointestinal ulcers.

A noticeable wobble in the bird’s waddle was attributed to an old injury staff discovered.

“She has an old, healed greenstick fracture,” Fox said, adding that it does not impede on the pelican living a normal life by any means in terms of fishing for food and such. “It’s an old finding.”

While the red tide has subsided, it can linger in fish and other food sources.

“The toxins created by those organisms are still present in the food chain,” she said.

So far for 2019, CROW has treated a total of 52 patients for red tide poisoning – about five to seven per week. The majority of those patients have been birds, including brown pelicans, gulls and terns.

“We’re actually higher than we were at the same time last year,” Fox said.

For more information about CROW or to check out its current and featured patients, visit www.crowclinic.org. To report an animal in need of assistance, contact 239-472-3644.

The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife is at 3883 Sanibel-Captiva Road.