Brown Pelican Intentionally Injured at the Naples Pier

July 6, 2022

The von Arx Wildlife Hospital is part of and located at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples, FL. Open 365 days a year from 8am to 8pm. Call 239-262-2273 for wildlife assistance.

A brown pelican and a swallow-tailed kite were among the 77 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include a grey kingbird, three loggerhead shrikes, a barred owl, a great egret, a yellow-bellied slider and a marsh rabbit.

The brown pelican was admitted from the Naples Pier after a teen angler intentionally hooked the bird. While the majority of the anglers at the Naples Pier are respectful of the birds, it was disheartening to know someone acted purposefully to hurt the pelican. Pelican patrol staff responded to the situation as it was happening; the pelican was captured and brought to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital for assistance. 

A physical exam showed the pelican was responsive and in decent body condition, although the fishhook caused a laceration along the bird’s right humerus near the shoulder. The stress and pain caused from struggling against the fishing line left the pelican exhausted. Staff administered pain medications and an antibiotic and placed the pelican in a recovery space in the bird room to rest. Later that afternoon, oral fluids, Chinese herbs, a vitamin supplement and an avian probiotic were added to the pelican’s treatment plan. 

Brown pelican receiving fluids and antibiotics

Even with supportive care, the brown pelican’s recovery has been slow. Staff monitored the pelican’s behavior and mentation carefully and by the fourth day, the pelican was stronger and steadier on its feet, no longer showed problematic digestive issues and began eating a limited number of whole fish each day.

Intentional cruelty shown to any living creature is unacceptable. 

Studies have revealed there is a correlation between animal abuse and violence against people. Please, if you have knowledge of cruelty to animals, immediately call law enforcement officials. Report acts of intentional harm and harassment against wildlife to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Reports can be anonymous. Don’t ignore actions that are clearly inhumane; be an advocate for creatures who have no voice.

If you are an angler or know someone who participates in angling activities at the Naples Pier, promote safe and responsible angling practices.

Obey regulations, respect fellow anglers as well as Pier staff and visitors. Develop an awareness for the environment and support preservation of natural resources. If you must fish at the Naples Pier, go prepared and demonstrate ethical fishing habits; use barbless hooks and be sure to use the proper test line. If shorebirds are congregating near where you are fishing, minimize the risk of accidentally hooking a bird by choosing a different fishing spot that is clear of birds or wait for the birds to disperse.

Swallow-tailed Kite in Canal

A young swallow-tailed kite was found struggling in a canal on Marco Island; rescuers used a net to retrieve the kite and brought it to the wildlife hospital at the Conservancy for care. Along with being wet, the kite was favoring its left wing; it was suspected the bird suffered soft tissue damage when it hit the water. Staff placed the kite on supplemental oxygen in a warm animal intensive care unit and was given time to dry off and rest.

A check on the kite two hours later showed the bird was more responsive, defensive and active.

Staff moved the kite to a recovery space in the bird room and offered the kite small pieces of mice that the kite eagerly ate. In between feedings, the kite would rest with its head tucked into its back feathers, obviously still exhausted from struggling in the water. The kite began eating on its own its second day at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital. 

Swallow-tailed kite eating mice

Swallow-tailed kites are a bird of prey that swoop and glide through the air feeding on insects, amphibians and nestling birds. It was reported that crows were “mobbing” the kite while it was struggling in the water.

Smaller birds such as crows, jays, mockingbirds and grackles commonly mob raptors that come too close to their nests and offspring.

Successfully evading a mob of birds is something all young raptors must learn; typically, a raptor will fly off leaving the area and mob behind. This kite is young; surprise and inexperience in avoiding mobbing birds is likely the reason the kite ended up in the canal.

If you find an animal in imminent danger (hit by car, drowning, domestic pet attack), offer immediate assistance while keeping your safety the top priority. Once the animal is safely contained, transport it to the nearest licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility for professional care. 

Recent Releases

A snowy egret, two gopher tortoises, an eastern cottontail, nine northern mockingbirds, a royal tern, a hispid cotton rat, a killdeer, a yellow-bellied slider, a red-bellied woodpecker, four mottled ducks and two common gallinules were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

Visit the Conservancy website to see a list of all the amazing volunteer opportunities at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida; with summer baby season in full gear, we need volunteers more than ever!  A few volunteer hours a week makes a tremendous difference in all we do to assist native wildlife. Your volunteer time, memberships and donations are truly vital in helping us continue our work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.

Joanna Fitzgerald is the Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Call 239-262-2273 or see