An endangered American white pelican found near death on a lake in B.C.’s southern Okanagan last fall is to be reunited with its flock on May 19, 2020. (Wildlife Rescue photo)

Injured pelican found near death in Okanagan released after lengthy rehab

The bird, found near Oliver, underwent seven months of rehabilitation

An endangered American white pelican found near death on a lake in B.C.’s southern Okanagan last fall is to be reunited with its flock.

A statement from Burnaby-based Wildlife Rescue says members left the centre with the bird early Tuesday morning, bound for an area west of Williams Lake where the bird’s migratory flock has been seen.

When the male pelican was found last October, his flock was gone and he was alone, emaciated and unable to fly after becoming entangled in a fishing line and hooks that left severe punctures and tore one wing.

The bird underwent seven months of rehabilitation and was awaiting release once biologists confirmed its flock had returned to the Cariboo region, the only place in the province where the birds breed.

American white pelicans mainly winter in California but fly north to breed, and the Atlas of Breeding Birds of British Columbia says they are endangered because of their small and vulnerable breeding populations.

The atlas estimates just 300 to 500 breeding pairs return to B.C.

ALSO READ: Wildlife group reminds of pollution dangers after pelican hurt in Okanagan lake

Wildlife Rescue says the recovered pelican’s flock has arrived at Puntzi Lake, about nine hours north of Vancouver, where he will be freed.

Janelle Stephenson, Wildlife Rescue hospital manager, said the pelican needed long-term specialized care tailored for large-bodied birds that float on warm water and should not walk or sit on hard surfaces.

An indoor, heated pool had to be built and “countless hours” were spent managing the pelican’s wounds, infection, nutrition and waterproofing of its feathers, Stephenson said.

“He took months to recover from his initial injury,” she said in the statement.

“Once healed and as the weather warmed, he acclimated to our local climate where he learned how to fly again in a larger outdoor enclosure.”

Wildlife Rescue has called for better public education on fishing and boating practices to prevent similar bird entanglements in future.

The Canadian Press

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