Pelicans injured during Ike set free

October 20, 2008 3:58:07 PM PDT
Five pelicans found oiled and injured after Hurricane Ike were finally released Monday in Seabrook. After five weeks recovering from the aftereffects of the storm, the five brown pelicans were taken back to their native habitat. One more was found before the storm even hit from injuries unrelated to the hurricane. But it, too, spent weeks in rehabilitation.

Their survival is a credit to the people who found them in Galveston and to the volunteers in Houston's Wildlife Rehab and Education Center. Some of the pelicans were coated in oil and sewage after the storm hit. Without careful cleaning and treatment, they would have died.

"The oil on their feathers inhibits them from flying. It keeps them from being insulated so they can stay warm," said Sharon Schmalz with the Wildlife Rehab and Education Center. "These brown pelicans, they actually die when they're hunting, so they can't fly."

A young pelican was found on the Causeway Bridge. It had probably been struck by a car. The creatures were put into the care of people, who they instinctively fear.

"We try to touch them as little as we have to. We try to give them fluids and we try to get them to eat on their own as quickly as possible because we are predators to them," said Schmalz.

The test of all that work came down to the moments when pelican by pelican they were put back into the bay water, the first four in two groups and then the little Causeway pelican.

For the bay area still scarred by the hurricane, it's proof that healing is possible.

"It's just part of our life," said Schmalz.

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