In what I’m sure comes as no surprise to anyone, I like to eat my lunch at the beach fairly often. One of my favorite haunts is Shelter Cove in Shell Beach. It’s a quick drive but out of the way enough that it’s generally pretty unpopulated. I had it all to myself today if you don’t count a handful of birds and some seals and dolphins off in the distance. I figured Shelter Cove would be a good spot to hang out because we’ve had some really high tides mixed with some serious surf and I knew I’d find some interesting stuff on the beach.

I found some pieces of different crabs… always pretty cool

And a piece of what looks like a seal skull… neat!

The middle of the crescent of beach pinned between the cliff and a big tide was plugged up with mountains of decomposing kelp. A few birds were having quite a feast in there gobbling up little bugs and crabs hiding in the seaweed.

While checking out the birds I noticed a pelican acting really oddly at the base of the cliff. I moved in closer and saw that he had a lead fishing weight slung over his shoulder. Not good. He looked a little haggard and defeated.

I moved in a bit closer and found that he was really tangled up. There was definitely a couple hooks in him and the fishing wire was wrapped around his neck, left wing, and trailed into his mouth. He was really quite a mess. I wasn’t totally sure what to do. I didn’t have a blade on me to cut him loose, but that wouldn’t necessarily have been the best option anyways since someone would have to get that hook out of his mouth.

Look close and you'll see a line from the wing to the neck

I called the Marine Mammal Rescue Center to ask who I should call since they were the only animal rescuing number I have in my phone. They hooked me up with Pacific Wildlife Care and I left a message on their hotline. A girl called me back shortly thereafter to let me know she was trying to find a volunteer to come scoop him up but was having a hard time getting someone in Pismo. I sat on a rock while my new pelican friend came and investigated me a bit. He ended up staying within about 3-5 feet of me for the better part of half an hour. In the meantime I called another friend that works at the beach to see if he had any other connections that could help out.

the arrow is pointing at the fishing weight

After an hour on the beach I had to split and go back to work. I didn’t want to lose sight of the pelican but I was pretty confident he wasn’t going anywhere. It’s a small beach and in his condition his only way out would be to swim out and the surf wasn’t too friendly. Back at the office I got another call from Pacific Wildlife Care letting me know they were still working on it and to get more info as to where they’d find the bird. A little while later I got an email confirmation that they successfully rescued the pelican and that he was en route  to Morro Bay to get untangled, dehooked and rehabilitated. Yay! I hope he returns to the wild soon and can get back to scaring the crap out of me with his friends by diving too close when we’re swimming :)

Lesson of the day: program the local wildlife rescue numbers into your cell phone now so that you have them when you run into animals in distress. For those of you local to me you’ll want to use 805-771-8300 for the Marine Mammal Rescue and 805-543-9453 for Pacific Wildlife Care.

One Response to “Operation Perilous Pelican”

  1. Evan says:

    Just how high can Rob’s karma bank grow? Amazing story… good on you.