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This is why you shouldn't feed pelicans

Florida wildlife officials issue warning

Photos courtesy of The Key West Wildlife Center
Photos courtesy of The Key West Wildlife Center

KEY WEST, Fla. – Heartbreaking photos shared by Florida wildlife officials are a stark reminder as to why you shouldn't feed pelicans or any other wildlife.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Monday shared photos of a juvenile brown pelican with its pouch torn to shreds as a result of being fed something it couldn't handle.

"Feeding wildlife is never a good idea, but pelicans are particularly sensitive to feeding. Fish carcasses can get lodged in their pouches and sharp bones can even puncture them, preventing the pelican from being able to eat," wildlife officials wrote on social media.

Aside from the obvious risks, feeding pelicans and other wild animals can also change their natural behavior and make them become dependent on humans for food rather than hunting on their own.

Anglers can take steps to protect pelicans and other sea birds by discarding fish carcasses and scraps in a lidded trash can or somewhere else where they will not be accessible.

In this case, the pelican with the torn pouch was rescued and taken to The Key West Wildlife Center. Staff members there closed the pouch wound but the pneumonia the bird contracted as a result of having its trachae exposed ultimately claimed the animal's life.

FWC officials offered the following tips Floridians can follow to help protect sea birds: 

  • Please don’t feed pelicans and other seabirds. Feeding seabirds causes them to congregate in areas where they are more likely to get hooked or tangled in fishing line. Feeding pelicans is prohibited by law (F.A.C. 68A-4.001).
  • Discard fish carcasses in marked repositories or lidded trash cans. Birds will feed on carcasses tossed in the water, which can lead to injury or death. Fish carcasses often are larger than the bait fish that birds normally feed upon, and the larger bones and spines can puncture the bird’s throat or digestive tract. Birds attracted by fish carcasses may congregate in areas where they are more likely to become entangled in fishing line.
  • Cast away from birds and shoreline vegetation.
  • Collect and store loose monofilament line until it can be discarded properly.
  • Keep bait buckets covered.
  • Take unused bait home.
  • Let other anglers know how to prevent bird entanglement.
  • For information on what you should do if you encounter injured or stranded wildlife, click here.


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