Responsible Fishing Matters

December 2, 2021

Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

A brown pelican and a green anole were among the sixty-seven animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include two great blue herons, a mottled duck, an osprey, a marsh rabbit and a glass lizard.

9 Injured Brown Pelicans

The brown pelican was one of nine pelicans injured after being hooked and entangled in monofilament line at the Naples Pier. City of Naples Pelican Patrol staff member, Lauren Malinowski, brought the bird to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital after her shift rescuing birds at the Naples Pier.

The pelican was dull, but responsive when admitted. One fishhook was embedded in the pelican’s right shoulder and another was deeply embedded in the pelican’s right leg near the ankle joint. The leg wound was swollen and had significant necrotic tissue surrounding the laceration.

Von Arx Wildlife Hospital veterinarian, PJ Deitschel, administered pain medication and a local anesthetic to numb the leg prior to removing the hook. Once both hooks were removed, the wounds were disinfected and electrolytes, an antibiotic and additional pain medications were administered. Laser therapy was performed to address pain and swelling at the injury sites.

von Arx Hospital staff admit a brown pelican brought to our facility by a staff member from the City of Naples. The pelican was hooked and entangled in fishing line at the Naples Pier.
A radiograph of a brown pelican reveals the location of two fishhooks. One hook was embedded in the pelican’s ankle, the other near the shoulder. The pelican did not survive due to the severity of the infection caused by the hook injuries.

The following day the pelican appeared more responsive and was moved from ICU to a recovery space in the bird room for continued care and treatment. The pelican’s condition took a turn for the worse on the third day at the hospital in which the pelican was no longer able to stand and had regurgitated the fish it had eaten the previous day. The treatment plan was altered in an effort to address the change in condition.

Additional medications were provided and the pelican was placed on oxygen in an animal intensive care unit. Staff closely monitored the pelican but the damage caused by the fishhooks proved to be too severe and the pelican did not survive. Two other pelicans admitted last week died from their injuries as well.

There is a misguided notion that because an animal is taken to the wildlife hospital, it will be fine. While a large percentage of animals do recover, a significant percentage of animals suffer tremendous injuries that prove fatal.

Fishing line and hook injuries cause significant damage and death for many species of birds, especially brown pelicans, royal terns and laughing gulls that inhabit the area at the Naples Pier and other fishing hotspots. Please, if you are an angler, promote ethical and responsible angling practices.

If you are a novice angler fishing at the Naples Pier, get to know the regulars who fish there. They can be very helpful and knowledgeable if you do accidentally hook a bird.

Learn what equipment is appropriate for the area you intend to fish; use barbless hooks and be sure to use the proper test line. If shorebirds are foraging where you are fishing, minimize accidentally hooking the birds by casting your line after they move out of the way or choose a fishing spot that is clear of birds.

Keep in mind successfully catching fish determines whether these birds live or die. Migration, cooler temperatures, poor water quality, red tide and lack of fish add pressures for shorebirds already struggling in a world significantly altered by humans.

Give wildlife a break and allow birds the opportunity to forage without the added dangers of hook and line entanglement.

A Young Girl’s Act of Kindness

A young girl rescued a green anole after the small lizard was accidentally sprayed with a power washer. The lizard’s eyes were open, but it wasn’t moving and was cold when admitted to the wildlife hospital.

Staff placed the anole in a warmed intensive care unit to rest. Periodically throughout the day, staff lightly misted the lizard with warm water. The next morning the lizard was alert, responsive and cleared for release.

The concern and empathy the young girl showed for the anole was heartwarming and reinforces the fact that no matter the animal, one small act of kindness can make a big difference and it definitely did for the green anole.

Recent Releases

Four eastern cottontails, a yellow-bellied sapsucker, five royal terns, a Florida softshell turtle, two double-crested cormorants, a black-and-white warbler, a palm warbler, an osprey and two grey squirrels were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

Please visit our website and learn about the opportunities on how to get involved. From the horticulture team to helping out with the animals, volunteers are essential to our work in protecting Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future. If you are unable to give of your time as a volunteer, become a member or donate.

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