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CROW reminds the public to not feed pelicans

By Staff | Feb 18, 2020

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If you are feeding wild animals, your kindness may be harming or even killing them but also breaking the law. At the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, animals – most recently brown pelicans – are often admitted because of harm encountered as a result of their scavenging for handouts from well-meaning nature lovers, according to officials.

Ninety brown pelicans have been admitted to the wildlife hospital on Sanibel thus far this year. In comparison, only 93 brown pelicans were admitted for the entire year in 2019. Many of the injuries currently being seen are preventable and often the result of being fed by humans. Recent reasons for admission include two separate instances of a large fish carcass being stuck in the pelican’s throat and several others entangled with fishing hooks and monofilament line.

Pelicans typically feed on small schools of fish that form near the surface of the water – including menhaden, mullet, anchovies, herring and sailfin mollies. But pelicans and other seabirds will feed on the remains or carcasses of a fisherman’s catch that are tossed in the water, which can lead to injury or death. Unfortunately, these fish carcasses are often larger than their normal diet, and the larger bones and spines can puncture the bird’s throat or digestive tract.

When pelicans are fed near fishing docks, marinas or cleaning stations, they congregate in large numbers looking for an easy meal. This change in behavior of “begging” or “scavenging” for scraps rather than hunting their normal prey items, brings them to areas where they are more likely to become entangled in fishing line or be accidentally hooked by a fisherman.

“While we know everyone has the best intentions for our local wildlife,” Executive Director Alison Charney Hussey said, “in the end, throwing fish scraps to the pelicans does them more harm than good and is also illegal in Florida.”

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According to the Florida Administrative Code, intentionally feeding or placing food that attracts pelicans and modifies the natural behavior in a way that is detrimental to the survival or health of a local population is prohibited by law.

“Please dispose of fish remains in a lidded trashcan rather than feeding the birds,” Hussey said. “And visit “http://www.MindYourLine.org”>www.MindYourLine.org to learn what to do if you accidentally hook a bird with your fishing line.”

If you see an animal in need of help, call CROW’s Wildlife Hospital at 239-472-3644 Ext. 222.

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