As a Communications Specialist at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Reserve, I promote and help get the word out to the community about the great work and programs of the Rookery Bay Research Reserve and the aquatic preserves that fall within the Southwest Region of DEP's Florida Coastal Office. Sometimes, on a lucky day, I get the opportunity to visit one of our sites in person to see the programs in action. This past Friday was one such day!
Along with three paying customers, I joined Environmental Specialists Dave Hersl and Mary McMurray of Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves on an Eco-venture. What began as a beautiful boat ride full of dolphin sightings and interesting information about seagrass became drama-filled when a white pelican laying on its side and in obvious trouble was spotted on White Pelican Island in Cape Haze.
As our boat moved closer to the island, all the other 50 roosting pelicans took to the air in a flurry... except for the one that seemed to have lost its ability to fly. Mary took the captain’s seat, calling to shore for assistance, while Dave waded out to collect the bird and bring it aboard. At last, we were able to see the problem: not only did the pelican have a fishing hook through its beak and pouch, but a cormorant was also impaled by the same multi-prong fishing lure! It had a hook through its wing, foot and chest. Dave covered both birds’ heads with a towel to calm them, and held them still as we returned to shore.
A team from The Wildlife Center of Venice met us at a marina nearby and immediately triaged the birds, clipping out the barbed hooks. Placing the birds into “doggy” carriers, they raced off the dock to the hospital. My fellow passengers cheered and we all felt like animal rescuers on the Discovery Channel. Dave and Mary assured us the birds would be fine with antibiotics and some rest. These birds weren’t this team’s first rescue.
As for Eco-Boat Tours with Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves – they are always interesting, always information-filled, and clearly no trip is ever the same. This one will surely go down in my memory as the best and most exciting one ever!
Learn more about the Ecoventures at Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves.
Amy Gray, Communications Specialist