A Barely Responsive Brown Pelican With Red Tide Poisoning Gets Help

The following story was shared by the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW).

brown pelicanOn August 3, 2018, an adult brown pelican was admitted to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) on Sanibel Island, Florida. It was found on Captiva Island, soaked and lying on the rocks with its wings splayed out and unable to lift its head. By the time the bird was transported to CROW, it was barely responsive.

On examination, the veterinarians found the pelican to be depressed, cold, dehydrated, and a little thin at 5.73 pounds (2.6 kilograms). It had superficial corneal ulcers on both eyes and a slow palpebral reflex. All these findings pointed to an all-too-common reality for seabirds in Southwest Florida – red tide poisoning or brevetoxicosis. Even with the best care, birds that arrive with severe brevetoxin poisoning often have an extremely guarded prognosis.

The animal was warmed up and dried off. He was put in an oxygen chamber to increase his oxygen perfusion. An IV catheter was placed to help flush the toxin from his system. He was also started on some medications, including antacids, antibiotics, and an antibiotic eye ointment. In order to give his depleted system the best nutrition, staff began tube-feeding him EmerAid Intensive Care Piscivore. The easily digestible and nutritious formula got him through the most critical hours. He began making slow but steady progress.

By August 8, 2018, although still weak, he was observed standing in his cage. By August 12, 2018, he was ready to be transitioned to an outdoor rehabilitation enclosure. There he regained waterproofing and started conditioning for release. At this point his body condition score had improved, his weight had increased to 6.17 pounds (2.8 kilograms), and he was regularly making flights within the enclosure. On August 22, 2018, he was deemed ready for release. A beautiful success story, he was returned home later that day to his natural environment.