Nova Scotia

Tangled cormorant rescued from Bedford Basin thanks to help of passing kayakers

A group of people came together to rescue a cormorant that was tangled in fishing gear in the Bedford Basin Sunday. A Hope for Wildlife volunteer says it was the second tangled bird she rescued that day.

Another tangled cormorant was rescued from Hammonds Plains Road earlier that day

A tangled cormorant was rescued from the Bedford Basin and treated at Hope for Wildlife on Sunday. (Submitted by Liz McMahon)

A group of people came together to help a young cormorant in the Bedford Basin who was tangled up in fishing gear.

Susan Maddalena and her husband, Peter, were walking along the waterfront Sunday morning when they spotted a cormorant at the edge of the water.

"I noticed that there was something shiny caught around his leg and neck," said Maddalena. "And after we observed him for a few minutes, it was clear that he was in a desperate situation."

Maddalena said she contacted the Hope For Wildlife rehabilitation centre in Seaforth, N.S., which said the best option would be to see if they could capture the bird.

"We did go down and try to catch him ourselves, but he jumped right back into the water and was out of our reach," she said. "So we continued to correspond with Hope For Wildlife and they were able to send a volunteer out to us."

That volunteer ended up being Liz McMahon, who lives nearby.

Hope for Wildlife volunteer Liz McMahon was able to swim out and rescue the bird, with the help of some kayakers who kept it from getting away. (Submitted by Peter Maddalena)

The bird swam into an inlet, and McMahon, spotting an opportunity to trap it in that area, jumped in the water and swam toward it.

Meanwhile, Maddalena had flagged down a group of kayakers to come and help corral the young bird.

"Before you knew it, he was starting to swim away, so I had to kind of go back and forth just to make sure he stayed in," said McMahon. "And then the cavalry arrived in the shape of at least four kayaks."

Together, they were able to keep the bird in one spot long enough for McMahon to capture it in a net.

As she was moving the cormorant from the net to a carrier, McMahon said she briefly let go of the young bird's neck and was bitten on the nose. 

"It was my fault, I mistook him for being too weak. Never underestimate a cormorant," she laughed.

"No good deed goes unpunished, for sure."

McMahon getting her nose disinfected at Hope for Wildlife. A cormorant bit her on the nose during a rescue attempt. (Submitted by Liz McMahon)

McMahon said the bird had a hook stuck in its neck, which was connected by a fishing line to another hook and a lure stuck in its foot.

"So he was really hooked up there," said McMahon.

Second cormorant saved

McMahon's water rescue in the Bedford Basin was actually the second cormorant she saved that day.

Earlier, McMahon heard about a tangled cormorant in the area and went out looking for it. She had been driving along Hammonds Plains Road when she saw a tangled cormorant in the middle of the street.

She pulled over, ran after the bird, and managed to capture it. McMahon thought it was the one Hope for Wildlife had gotten a call about, but later learned there was still a tangled bird in the Bedford Basin.

The bird rescued from Hammonds Plains Road appeared to be older than the one in the basin. This one had a 10-centimetre silver lure stuck to its foot.

"I was really dismayed to see yet more fishing tackle stuck to this poor thing," she said. "And it was a triple hook, so it was really twisted in his foot and into the webbing."

The bird rescued on Hammonds Plains Road had a hook and lure stuck in its foot. (Submitted by Liz McMahon)

The two birds were taken to Hope for Wildlife, where the hooks and the fishing lines were removed.

They were released back into the Bedford Basin later that day.

"Once we had that disengaged and removed, the best thing is actually to get them right back to the ocean because they won't eat in captivity and they stress out too much in captivity," McMahon explained.

She said she also rescued a tangled cormorant last month.

"It's really a shame because that's my third call with fishing line," she said. "We see a lot of fishing line."

McMahon said she also responded to a call a few weeks ago about a tangled loon, but she wasn't able to find it.


About the Author

Alex Cooke


Alex is a reporter living in Halifax. Send her story ideas at