Much like a little puppy, the young brown pelican follows people around. Wildlife rehabbers Dr. Ronald Hines and his wife, Gloria, said the little guy is used to people and loves to be around them.
“He’s real gentle. I talk to him while he eats,” Gloria said. This behavior is definitely a step up from one week ago, when he was found sick, without his mama, along the highway.
Animal lover Renee Lockett was the one who reached out to the Hines for help after receiving a call about the stranded pelican on Thanksgiving Day. The lone and lethargic creature was found off of Highway 48 near Port Isabel. The poor little guy was all alone and in distress.
“When I got a call about a young brown pelican in distress next to parked cars off of Highway 48, I quickly called certified wildlife rehabber Dr. Ronald Hines and his wife, Gloria, to see if they had room to take the pelican,” Lockett said.
The pair gladly took the animal under their care at their home in Brownsville. Hines, a retired veterinarian, has more than 60 years of experience rehabbing animals. In the past, he has worked with a circus and Sea World. The couple also has extensive experience rehabilitating other birds.
The young pelican was weak, had an eye infection, was unable to fly and was covered in bird mites. Brown pelicans must fly up and dive down into the water to catch fish to eat, so without help, chances are it would not have survived, Hines said.
Since the day after Thanksgiving, Hines and his wife have spent some time with the pelican, which Hines said is abnormally tame.
He’s young, part of this year’s hatch, probably six months old, Hines said. He has imprinted on people, which is something Hines said pelicans don’t usually do. “He follows you around,” Hines said.
He said his main concern is whether the bird can take care of himself in the wild. Young pelicans learn to fish from their parents. Hines said this pelican has yet to learn to fish for himself.
This leads Gloria to believe that perhaps the pelican’s mother was killed.
The next thing Hines plans to do is test the animal’s flying abilities. That will determine whether he can be released into the wild or not. If not, Hines said he will do his best to find him a permanent sanctuary.
After getting the bird’s care under control, they soon realized another hurdle, food. A bird of that size needs fresh fish to eat. Lockett was prepared to pay however much it would cost to help this bird in need.
“I went to Gordon’s Bait & Tackle Shop and spoke with the co-owner, Gary Williams, and his wife, Sherri, about the pelican. I showed them pictures and without hesitation, Mr. Williams kindly offered to donate fish for the pelican’s recovery,” Lockett said.
Williams and his two sisters, Amanda Burres and Sheila Montes, just recently entered into co-owning the shop after their father, Gordon, died about six months ago.
During the years, Williams said the shop has helped several people feed animals.
Anything that is legally caught in the bait boat nets is usually good for donation. So far, Williams has donated about 35 pounds of different types of bait fish, such as perch, whiting and croaker to Hines.
As long as they can, Williams said they will continue to help.