The call came as my son Travis and I were halfway around our trap line. We often care for injured owls from the Strathcona Raptor Shelter, and to feed the owls as natural a food as possible, we have set up a mouse trap line to collect mice for the owls.
Milo S. was on the phone. He said there was a pelican walking down the road near the Francis Viewpoint on Beaverhill Lake, just east of Tofield, Alberta. Since the bird was obviously injured, Milo was wondering if we could capture it and take it to the shelter. Travis and I drove out to the site right away.
To be honest, the closest I have been to a pelican was at the end of my binoculars. When we arrived at the site where the bird was spotted, Milo was there to point out the bird to us. It was sitting forlornly in the ditch.
Our immediate problem was how to catch him. Fortunately, pelicans can’t run so, with Milo blocking his retreat, I was able to approach him. All of the sudden, I was looking at the biggest mouth I had ever seen. I let him grab onto my gloved hand. Despite the size of their bills, they cannot exert much force with them. However, the bill does have a sharp hook at the end which could do damage to bare skin. As soon as he grabbed my one hand, I was able to grab him by the neck with my other hand.
The cage I had brought was clearly too small so the only thing we could do was put him in the backseat of the car. Now this bird was not happy and he took the approach that the best defence was a good offence. Every so often he would reach over the seat and take a peck at us. Halfway home, the pelican decided that the front seat was a better spot and climbed onto Travis’s lap. Luckily it was dusk by this time and no one could clearly see into our vehicle. The occasional person who could see in as we passed by street lights probably thought my passenger was a pretty odd (not to mention ugly) person.
A few pecks from the bird later, we were home. We transferred the bird to our van and, in the now total darkness, he settled down nicely for the ride to the raptor shelter. Once there, I held the bird while Eva did a precursory examination of its injured wing. Her husband Karl, who runs the shelter, would be home in a couple of hours and the injury was not serious enough to warrant immediate wrapping.
I was starting to feel a bit itchy. We had noticed during the examination that the pelican was crawling with tiny bugs. We powdered him with lice powder and pout him in an enclosure with a couple of Canada Geese that were already under the shelter’s care.
Eva said not to worry because the bugs could only survive on waterfowl and would soon abandon me. I wasn’t totally convinced as I was continually scratching on the way home. I was out of those clothes and into the shower as soon as I got home. With mice in her freezer and lice on her husband, my wife is complaining that her status in the community is declining rapidly.
Roy Fairweather, Tofield, Alberta, Canada