ns-ralphthepelican

Ralph the Pelican was released back into the wild Saturday in North Carolina. (Gary Sowerby)

Ralph the pelican's journey of fame ended Saturday as the bird was released into the Croatan National Forest in North Carolina after being blown into Nova Scotia in a hurricane in September 2010.

Ralph was taken to a Lawrencetown, N.S., wildlife centre, tired and hungry, after colliding with a plate-glass window at a Dartmouth strip club — Ralph's Club — the place after which the pelican was named.

Ralph, who was later determined to be female, called Nova Scotia home until March 2011.

The Hope for Wildlife Society had been unable to get the proper permits to get the bird on a plane to head south. In March, she was driven to the U.S. by a Halifax businessman, where she spent several months at a rehabilitation centre in North Carolina.

Pelicans winter in Florida, but Ralph spent time with two other brown pelicans in North Carolina to get used to her new surroundings before being released

Hope Swinemar, the head of the society, had been taking care of Ralph at the group's rehabilitation centre for wild animals in Seaforth, N.S., before Ralph headed south.

"It was awesome," said Swinemar to hear of Ralph's release. "We were really glad they kept us up to date on how Ralph was doing all the way along, because we put a lot of time and energy in, and it was such a fun story from beginning to end."

Like any good story, there were some stressful moments along the way according to Swinemar.

"The only thing I was worried about is that Ralph had become a bit imprinted with people during her stay here with me, because [she] was one of a kind and we didn't have a lot of knowledge on how to care for pelicans. It was a tough case for us."

The pelican rose to local fame after being swept into the Halifax area by Hurricane Earl last September.

"We joke that now that she's free, we hope that she doesn't decide to fly back to Nova Scotia just because we treated her so good," said Swinemar laughing.

She said Gary Sowerby, a professional endurance driver and businessman who drove Ralph to North Carolina, was nice enough to send her pictures of the release.

"It was really nice to see the photos, I would've loved to have been there."