Wayward Pelican Awaits the End of the Government Shutdown

Photo Courtesy of Traer Scott

By Carla Charter

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SAUNDERSTOWN, R.I.- Bert the Pelican wants to return home. However, due to the government shut down, his return has been delayed indefinitely.   Bert, a young brown pelican first landed in the village of Galilee in the town of Narragansett, Rhode Island, several weeks ago.   Fishermen and dock workers fed him and he quickly became popular at the site, with people even stopping by to take pictures with Burt. One the fishermen started calling him Bert and the name stuck.

“Pelicans are naturally used to being around people,” said Kristen Fletcher Executive Director of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Association of Rhode Island, the group caring for Bert at theWildlife Clinci of Rhode Island. “It occasionally happens that we have a wayward bird. This time of year, they won’t survive unless they turn around and leave which he was not doing.” Bert’s home is generally south of Maryland and Virginia.

As for how Bert ended up in Rhode Island, the answer may never be clear.  “We may never really know if he was pulled up North by some winds and whether that played into him being up here, we are not certain.”  Bert was brought to the center by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

Bert is a healthy weight, eating approximately 5 to 10 pounds of fish a day.  “Someone donated 50 pounds of fish for Bert and he went through that in 3 to 4 days,” Fletcher continued.  His feathers are in good shape as well, she added.

Although rescuing pelicans is rare for this sanctuary, it is not their first pelican rescue. “The last time we had pelicans we worked with a sea bird sanctuary in Florida. Our goal is to bring him to that seabird sanctuary,” Fletcher said.  At that facility they will do their own assessment and then release Bert.

“We have to rent a vehicle and drive to the Florida facility. Domestic airlines do not allow us to fly the birds there, she said adding that driving is also less stressful for the bird.  Financial donations are always accepted to help Bert and the animals at their sanctuary.

However, Bert’s voyage south has been delayed due to the government shut down. “When transferring birds across state lines, the receiving facility needs a permit from the United States Fish and Wildlife Agency and they’re shut down at the moment. The permits are required for the health, well being of the bird and the population they are being released into,” she said. Bert is not the only bird waiting for the shutdown to end. The facility also has a Saw Whet Owl who is ready to be transferred to a facility in Massachusetts.

So, while Bert, who is described as spunky and a little on the goofy side, waits for the shutdown to end, Fletcher said “Everyone should be assured that Bert is fed and warm.  He will bide his time at the rehab facility, until the facility can get him back where he belongs.”

More information can be found or a donation can be made to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Association of Rhode Island by visiting their website at www.riwildliferehab.org


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