Charlotte LaBarbera is accustomed to seeing wildlife outside her home on Contraband Bayou off Sallier Street.
“I am always looking out the window to see if there is anything good going on,” she said.
Last week, it was pelicans. Four of them were diving for food, flying back and forth in front of her house. Then on Friday, she saw something that didn’t look right.
“I looked out and saw a large wing pop up from some grass on the edge of the water.”
She walked down a neighbor’s wharf to find an injured pelican in the water. When the bird saw her, it tried to swim away and fly off, but was unable to do so.
LaBarbera called the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, who referred her to Heck Haven Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. The Center takes wounded birds and animals, but does not go pick them up. Heck Haven referred her to Calcasieu Parish Animal Services & Adoption Center. Animal Services Officer Jacqueline Pine was dispatched to the scene. She approached the bird and put a net over its head and hauled it out of the water.
“She had to hold his beak because they can break your bones with their bite,” said LaBarbera.
Pine held the bird’s beak with one hand while she searched for the problem with her other hand. She found it: a five-inch fishing lure with three barbs. Each barb had three hooks. The pelican was hooked under its wing with two of them and the third one was hooked into its foot. The bird was also wrapped in fishing line.
LaBarbera ran back to her house to get a pair of wire cutters and to fetch her husband, Frank, to help. She also grabbed her camera.
Between the two of them, Frank LaBarbera and Pine were able to cut each of the hooks and free the pelican from the fishing line. Pine then took the bird to Heck Haven.
LaBarbera called the following day and spoke with Heck Haven proprietor Suzy Heck. Heck told her the bird was a young one, and that she was treating it with antibiotics and giving it fluids.
The American Press spoke with Heck on Tuesday. The bird is recovering nicely, she said.
“He wasn’t badly injured. It’s mostly his skin with a few puncture wounds. He lost a quarter-sized chunk of skin.”
Heck said the bird will likely be released in the next day or two.
“He’s feisty as can be and eating like a pig,” she said.
Heck added that if there are any fishermen who want to donate fish for injured birds like this one, she is always glad to accept them, from minnow-sized up to a foot-and-a-half long. No catfish, though. Pelicans don’t like them, she said.