Capitol Beach resident wants to save pelicans

2011-11-30T20:00:00Z 2011-11-30T22:20:04Z Capitol Beach resident wants to save pelicansBy ALGIS J. LAUKAITIS / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

Capitol Beach resident Deb Bell says she has been watching two American white pelicans wither away.

"I'm concerned they are going to die," said Bell, who lives at 1720 Surfside Drive.

Pelicans are not uncommon at the lake development west of downtown. The birds -- along with hundreds of geese and ducks -- migrate through annually, stay a few days to eat and rest, and then, usually, take off.  

"These two have stayed around (for two months) and it's obvious that one is injured," Bell said. "I've never seen either one fly."

The pelicans stay close to shore but occasionally swim across the middle of lake. Bell thinks they sleep in a drainage pipe. Sometimes they hang out in the water near the marina.

Lake residents keep each other up-to-date on the pelicans via email.

Bell has left bread for them, but she's never seen them eat. She thinks ducks and other waterfowl may get to the food first. A neighbor feeds them store-bought smelt.

Bell has called several agencies for help, without much success.

"It's heartbreaking to see animals like that suffer," she said Tuesday.

However, there may be help coming from a Lincoln-based wildlife rescue program.

Bell said she thinks the state Game and Parks Commission should help the birds because they are a federally protected species.

But Joel Jorgensen, the commission's non-game program manager, said he's seen the birds twice and saw no evidence of injury or malnourishment.

"We don't like to see injured wildlife. If it's a situation that we can respond to, we will," he said.

Rehabilitating injured pelicans can be a challenge, Jorgensen said, because not many places will take them.

Game and Parks rescued a pelican in a Lincoln backyard last year. It didn't appear to be injured and was released at Branched Oak Lake, he said.

"It's not a positive to capture a bird and bring it into captivity. That's kind of the last choice -- the last option we want to do," Jorgensen said.

Chasing down the pelicans with motor boats could put more stress on them, he said.

Even though it's getting late in the migratory season, Jorgensen said, there still are some pelicans in the area, and some even spend the winter here if there's open water.

"They're pretty tough birds."

Bell, a longtime resident, said the lake freezes every winter.

Wildlife Rescue Team president Diane Bohling said it's tough to catch pelicans, which can weigh as much as 30 pounds and have a wingspan greater than 9 feet.

She said it could take four or five boats to push the pelicans to the bank, where they could be cornered and captured safely.

Last month, Wildlife Rescue volunteers caught two injured pelicans on a private lake near Firth, she said.

"It took us two days, two boats and eight people to get them," Bohling said, and four people, including her, ended up in the water.

Bohling, who has not seen the Capitol Beach birds, said Wildlife Rescue is working on a plan to help them.

Bell fears that it may be too late.

On Wednesday, she only saw one pelican. She said she hasn't seen the other for a few days and fears the worst.

Reach Algis J. Laukaitis at 402-473-7243 or alaukaitis@journalstar.com.

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