Along the banks of the Willamette River near Oregon’s western coast a pelican was in crisis.
It had been injured and was unable to fly, leaving the 13-pound bird trapped.
Rescuers couldn’t reach the pelican for days as winter weather set in and it was in danger of starvation.
But as conditions improved, the bird was captured and shipped to California where it enjoyed warm sunshine and large pools of water at the San Diego Sea World.
Then on Tuesday the pelican, which affectionally was named “Pelly,” made its final flight on a small plane to Carlsbad, New Mexico where it will live out its days at the Desert Willow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center educating local youth about wildlife and conservation.
Pelly joined the center’s resident pelican since 2016 Mr. P-Body who also suffered an injured wing and will likely never fly again.
When the birds lose their ability to fly, they can no longer hunt prey and would not survive in the wild.
The center will house them with its other myriad injured animals for the rest of their lives.
At Cavern City Air Terminal, a group of volunteers and officials from the center gathered to welcome Pelly to its new home.
The gender of the bird was yet to be determined, pending a series of evaluations in the coming days.
Volunteer Lori Singer said Mr. P-Body was recently moved to an area in the back of the center as it was expanded and no longer got to interact with visitors to the animal hospital.
She said Mr. P-Body had begun to show signs of loneliness and boredom, and the center hoped the new pelican would re-establish P-Body’s social life.
“He’s lonely,” Singer said. “We’re hoping that he’ll decide he likes this bird and that’ll take care of the boredom.”
After the rendezvous on the tarmac of the airport, Pelly was driven about five miles north – along with an injured hawk gathered earlier in the day from Alamogordo – into Carlsbad to the Center where Singer inspected the bird for any preliminary injuries.
She said Pelly’s feet were very dry and were at risk of developing “bumblefoot” a bacterial condition that occurs in birds creating painful infections on the toes, hocks or pads of their feet.
Pelly would receive a medicated foot soak daily for about a week to address the condition, Singer said, while dining on freshly-caught fish.
After inspection, the pelican was placed in a 20-by-10-foot enclosure with a fence separating it from Mr. P-Body.
The two birds quickly began interacting, running side by side along the fence with wings outstretched.
Pelly spread her wings eagerly to cool them after the plane flight.
If the two birds can get along, Pelly will join P-Body in his enclosure and be protected by a covered habitat at night.
If they don’t take to each other, Pelly will be held at another location at the facility when night falls to be protected from predators.
“Our goal is to get them together and see if they’ll be nice to each other,” Singer said. “Then we can put them in together.”
Unable to live in the wild, Pelly will join Mr. P-Body as an educational animal at the center.
They will be brought to public events for children and interested visitors to interact with and learn from.
Board member Jim Goodbar said such efforts can increase human empathy to wildlife and teach the value of conservation.
“Wildlife is important to us all,” he said. “If wildlife is injured for any reason, they need the opportunity to be recouped and released into the wild. If they can’t be released, they can still serve a great purpose that is educational.”
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-618-7631, firstname.lastname@example.org or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.