British Columbia·Video

Endangered pelican found near death in B.C. released after lengthy rehab

Injured American white pelican found entangled in fishing gear seven months ago was reintroduced to its flock near Williams Lake, B.C.

Injured American white pelican was reintroduced to his flock near Williams Lake

An endangered American white pelican was released back to its flock near Williams Lake after a seven month rehab. (Wildlife Rescue)

An endangered American white pelican found near death on a lake in British Columbia's southern Okanagan last fall has been reunited with its flock.

A statement from Burnaby-based Wildlife Rescue says members left the centre with the bird bound for an area west of Williams Lake, B.C., where the bird's migratory flock had 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.

WATCH | Pelican release

After undergoing seven months of rehabilitation for serious injuries, and endangered white American pelican is reunited with his flock. 0:40

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

The injuries suffered by the pelican led Wildlife Rescue to remind people who fish to be mindful of leaving line and hooks behind. (Wildlife Rescue Association)

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.

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