Okanagan community working to save injured pelican

Saving hurt, lonely pelican

Carolyn Madge says it's not unusual to spot groups of pelicans out on the water from her home on Tucelnuit Lake this time of year, but when one showed up alone and didn't seem to be able to fly, she became concerned. 

"When this little gentleman arrived, he was solo, that was the first thing I noticed. And several hours went by and he was still there," Madge said. "I went outside because I didn't see him anymore, and I went down the stairs to the beach and there he was, right by the fence!"

That was two weeks ago, and Mr. P, as she has nicknamed the bird, is still there, spending most of his days on the beach in front of Madge's home. 

"I noticed there was something really wrong with his one wing. It looked to me like it was a shotgun shot, an entry wound and an exit wound just slightly above it, with quite a bit of dried blood," Madge described. "Who knows how long it had been since he had been injured ... but he could barely fly."

The birds, which are a legally protected endangered species, travel through the Okanagan every spring on their way north to their only breeding ground in the province, located west of Williams Lake.

Madge says she and her neighbours look forward to spotting the flocks coming through in the spring and fall on the way back down for the winter, catching a quick snack of fish from Tucelnuit Lake then moving on. 

That's why saving Mr. P became a community effort. 

"We've just watched him, every day, we've talked to him, we've become quite good friends," Madge said with a chuckle. "He spends 90 per cent of his time right here on the beach ... he did try to fly a few times, and he did get up, but he came right back down."

The community became concerned that the pelican wasn't fishing or eating. Madge's daughter and another friend started working to find a way to help Mr. P. 

For a while, calling around to local rescue organizations meant hitting dead ends, as no one in the Okanagan was equipped to rehabilitate pelicans. But then a conversation overheard by chance in a local nail salon triggered a series of events that would lead to a rescue effort. 

A friend of Madge's was doing a woman's nails when she heard her speaking into her cellphone to her daughter about an injured pelican. As it turned out, the woman's daughter was connected to Burnaby's Wildlife Rescue Association and had heard a rumour about Mr. P. 

Madge's friend immediately let her know, and the parties connected, and the rest was kismet.  

The Wildlife Rescue Association agreed to send a team up to Oliver on Saturday in the hope of safely capturing Mr. P and bringing him to their rehabilitation centre for treatment. 

Madge and the rest of the community are hoping and praying the rescue attempt will go well.

"He is just a magnificent, beautiful bird," she said. "Lots of people have kept track of him on Facebook, and a lot of cars popping in to check on him." 

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