Medicine River Wildlife Centre doesn’t always see happy endings for the injured animals that come in but one lucky pelican is back with his flock after losing a leg to fishing line.  

Executive Director of Medicine River wildlife, Carol Kelly said they received a call for an entangled pelican last week. A couple of skilled volunteers were able to rescue the pelican located at Wizard Lake on their kayaks.  

“[They] realized that there was fishing line around his leg and his wing so they took it off and brought him to the wildlife Center for us to assess and what we found was he has perfectly good wings. He's perfectly capable of flight but he is probably going to lose one of his feet,” said Kelly. 

Animals cope better than people do

After taking him to Medicine River Wildlife Centre, they were able to observe just how the bird would be able to maneuver with one remaining good leg.   

“He has just got a little peg leg. Pelicans don't spend a lot of time out of water. They spend most of their time in water, and he was absolutely able to paddle in a straight line well with this little peg leg. I think he'll be able to function quite nicely,” said Kelly who was happy to return the Pelican back to his flock at Wizard Lake.  

Animals that come to the centre for rehabilitation often return to the wild not in perfect condition but strong enough to carry out the remainder of their lives.  

“They actually cope better than we do. We have a deer in Sylvan Lake a few years back who was hit by a car. My volunteer decided to just kind of keep an eye on her. Even though the back leg was broken and a couple months later the back leg fell off. She was a three-legged deer. I believe it was about six years she lived in Sylvan Lake and had about three sets of twins and three legs,” said Kelly.  

For the wildlife hospital, dealing with birds entangled in fishing line is nothing new and can often lead to some tragic circumstances for our local birds.  

“We went out to help that bird was it was clearly having trouble. It couldn't seem to take off, so we got out to it and what it was is the fishing line was tangled around it, but also a second bird, it's mate was dead and it was dragging the dead weight mate by the tangle of fishing line,” said Kelly.  

Loons, greebs, and pelicans are most commonly caught up in fishing line because they like to dive into the water to get their food. On average, Kelly says the wildlife hospital deals with 12 birds a year that are harmed by fishing line.  

She suspects in the case of the peg-legged pelican, the bird may have been attracted by the lure attached to the line. 

“It might have been floating a bit and attracted the Pelican, thinking it was a fish,” she added.  

The easiest way of ensuring our birds remain safe, is careful clean-up after we finish up our time in nature and head home.  

“Be really, really careful about our fishing line and our fishing equipment. If we do have a little bit that gets tangled on something and you can reach it, make an effort to go get it, and get it back again. Don't throw your fishing line on shore and just walk away. That fishing line gets tangled in other things too,” she explained.  

Old fishing line can be recycled into tackle boxes

In order to help fishermen and women to recycle their lines, the animal hospital is working to provide a unique fishing line recycling service with Clear Your Gear.  

“We made a partnership with an organization where we provide their big tubes that are put at special fishing sites and then when we gather all the fishing line from them at the end of the year, it gets sent to California where the fishing line gets recycled and made into fishing tackle boxes,” explained Kelly.  

There are half a dozen out at local fishing hot spits and the organization has ordered another 20 more.  

For more information on Medicine River Wildlife click here.