SB Wildlife Care Network sets rehabilitated pelicans free
It’s the time of year when the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network is busiest. It admits 20-40 animals each day, on average, and releases its patients into the wild when the rehabilitation is complete.
Two brown pelicans, patients #779 and #895, flew free Wednesday after a little over a month inside Wildlife Care Network’s aviary.
The juvenile pelicans arrived seven days apart, both emaciated, hypothermic and severely dehydrated. Their weight nearly doubled after treatment, including fluids, antibiotics, anti-parasitics, wound care and lots of food.
Caretakers watched to see when the pelicans can fly and feed themselves before releasing them. A staff veterinarian also looks at the texture of the feathers, waiting until they look healthy.
Executive Director Ariana Katovich told the News-Press that she’s never had a release day go poorly. The team has always confirmed that the animals are ready for the wild.
Patients #779 and #895 were another success Wednesday when they trotted out of their cages, immediately taking flight.
“It looks like they’re playing in the wind,” Ms. Katovich said, watching the pelicans circle around their release area adjacent to the Goleta Pier.
The two joined each other, flying north toward a flock of around 10 other pelicans.
It’s not surprising they flew together, said Julia Parker, the organization’s director of operations. Most releases end with the birds together.
The weather was nice for the pelicans. The team chose a time where the tide was receding, so the pelicans had a stretch of sand before the waves.
Usually, sea birds will sit in the water for a bit after their release, but #779 and #895 were content flapping against the wind.
Ms. Katovich and Ms. Parker agreed that releasing the animals to the wild is the best part of their job — but it’s not uncommon for the organization to have wildlife ready to be free.
Patients are numbered upon intake, counting up from the first rescue of the year. So, by now, Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network has homed over a thousand animals (probably why they get numbers and colored tags instead of names).
As the organization continues to get a larger volume of intakes each day, it will have more releases approximately a month later.
Around 70% of its animals are birds, but the team gets a lot of brush rabbits, opossums and even reptiles as well.
Recently, the staff welcomed another pelican for rehabilitation.
A family, clad in swimsuits, saw the injured pelican at the beach, wrapped it in a towel and immediately drove to the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network, at 1460 N. Fairview Ave. in Goleta.
Sometimes, animals are brought to the network, but staff and volunteers often collect the animals themselves.
A helpline is monitored from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. When someone finds an animal in need, they can call 805-681-1080 to contact the Wildlife Care Network.