PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - Following two surgeries and nearly two months of treatment, an injured brown pelican is about to be returned to the wild.
When it was first captured, the bird was struggling to survive with a serious injury. You see, the 3-year-old pelican essentially had his throat slit. Someone apparently used a knife or razor to inflict a large slice across the bird's feeding pouch.
Thanks to Wildlife Care and Rescue Center, the bird is healing nicely.
"This guy is ready to go," said Billy Payne as he watched the feisty pelican. "He wants out of this cage right now."
That certainly wasn't the case in early August when Payne first began caring for the badly injured pelican.
"His entire gullet pouch had been basically sliced off," said Payne. "He was in dire straits."
Payne said there's little doubt someone deliberately cut the bird.
"I mean, there was no doubt about it, because it was a clean cut from the back all the way to the front," Payne said.
It was nearly eight weeks ago when the pelican was captured at Pass Christian Harbor, underweight, struggling to survive and barely able to eat or drink because of the severity of his injury.
"Caught him with the cast net and set him on his way to surgery," said Billy Peterson, who captured the injured bird alongside the pier after seeing it was in trouble.
"He was very, very hungry. He had a hole in his throat, and every time he'd flip a fish in his throat, it would just come right out the hole in his throat. Wouldn't make it down," said Peterson.
Payne initially force fed the bird until it was strong enough for surgery.
"His initial surgery was extremely tedious. That was on Aug. 7. It was approximately two hours long. So, he was cut about 13 to 15 inches," said Darlena Stratton, with Wildlife Care and Rescue Center. "We're just thankful when finders out there find these animals and call us and say, 'can you help,' and yeah, we can help."
The now healthy bird will be set free on Saturday.
"For us, a successful release is almost like winning the Super Bowl, because there's so many that just don't work out that way," said Payne.
Wildlife Care and Rescue Center helps rehab hundreds of hurting or injured animals each year. They are a nonprofit organization and always welcome volunteers and donations from anyone who'd like to help.