500 stitches later, the injured brown pelican “Blue” continues his healing process

A three-year-old brown pelican hobbled around San Pedro Pier injured and unable to feed itself for at least a day.

According to reports from a bird rescue group, the cuts ran parallel to the jaw, straight and down to the neck and into the feathered skin.

A member of a local sport fishing crew spotted the disoriented bird on March 10 and tossed it a fish. The pelican caught it in its beak, but the snack slipped out of its exposed and damaged pouch.

The fisherman took the bird two miles to International Bird Rescue, known for its care and rehabilitation services.

The organization announced Thursday that the brown pelican, named “Blue,” is doing better, is “eating brilliantly” and has gained nearly two pounds.

“We caught the bird quickly and it’s fair to say Blue is on the road to recovery,” said Russ Curtis, the group’s communications manager. “The bird eats and it has a bright future.”

Curtis said the pouch is a “vital organ” for brown pelicans, allowing the birds to ingest and swallow fish.

A three-year-old brown pelican named Blue, found on the San Pedro Pier on March 10 and injured multiple times, is doing better.

Blue in the International Bird Rescue aviary. The organization believes the wounds were caused by humans.

(Russ Curtis/International Bird Rescue)

“If it gets cut, it’s a death sentence,” Curtis said.

Curtis said Blue needed 400 stitches immediately, which were administered by the organization’s chief veterinarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr. Another 100 stitches were added after Blue took a break for five to six days to stitch up the rest of the exposed mouth area, Curtis said.

“The back of Blue’s mouth required careful reconstruction but came together well,” Duerr said.

Blue spent Friday morning and afternoon in the International Bird Rescue flight aviary. The group released one YouTube video Thursday of the brown pelican trying to get small fish from a blue box.

“We want to thank bird lovers in Southern California and beyond for their support of our efforts to save Blue,” Chief Executive JD Bergeron said in a statement.

Duerr and other International Bird Rescue employees believe that humans caused the bird’s injuries.

“We see a lot of pelicans with pouch injuries due to fishing gear and eating dangerous, sharp objects like fish skeletons, but the wounds don’t look like this,” said Duerr, director of research and veterinary sciences. “The cuts are reminiscent of a knife, machete or other sharp object.”

The injuries reminded staff of an attack 10 years ago on a brown pelican named “Pink” in Long Beach. International Bird Rescue officials labeled this incident as such “Worst intentional bag cutting we’ve ever seen.”.”

Pink needed two surgeries and nearly two months of recovery in the same aviary where Blue is recovering. Pink was released at San Pedro’s White Point Coastal Park in June 2014. Blue was named as a tribute to Pink.

Curtis said the attack on Blue is the first suspected human attack that International Bird Rescue has encountered this year.

“I don’t know what would make a person attack a bird just looking for food in such a cruel way,” he said. “It’s a sad statement about the world.”

The injury was reported to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for investigation.

Capt. Patrick Foy, a member of the department’s law enforcement division, said he knows there have been a handful of birds with injured pouches between Ventura and Dana Point in recent years. However, his department was unable to determine what or who injured her.

“There is no doubt that these birds were terribly injured,” Foy said. “Whether it is caused by a human has not yet been proven.”

Foy said his department could only conclude that a human was responsible for the attacks after inspecting the animals.

Until then, he said, “we have an ongoing investigation, but we have very little evidence.”

Foy and International Bird Rescue have a tip line at 888-334-2258 and hope the public will provide information.

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