Fishing lure catches eye of sore seagull
Tangled in a 30-foot web of fish line with a 3-inch lure stuck in its eye and throat, a seagull was released back into the wild this week after a beachgoer found the bird and rushed it to a local veterinarian.
After an hour’s worth of surgery, Dr. Staci Baker of Kingsbury Animal Hospital was able to pluck the barbed treble hooks from the bird’s face. Had the bird been left to fend for itself, Baker said it would have endured a slow, agonizing death.
“The little guy was definitely hurting,” Baker said. “I saw him and I couldn’t believe it. I was so disgusted.”
The bird was found by Ed Ferranto, a skipper for the M.S. Dixie and Woodwind II, who was enjoying a Tuesday afternoon at Zephyr Cove with his wife, Gillian.
Ferranto said he first thought the bird had a fish in its mouth.
“As it started coming closer to me, I knew that something wasn’t right,” Ferranto said. “Then then it finally just walked up to me, as if he were asking me for help.”
His wife wrapped the bird in a towel while he retrieved a pair of needle-nose pliers from his car. For about five minutes, he went to work on the bird, first untangling him from the fish line, and then attempting to remove the hooks.
“I went in there with the pliers. I knew he was hurting, but I just couldn’t get at it,” Ferranto said. “He started to bleed and that’s when I told Gillian that we’d better get him to a vet.”
Baker, who was out of the office at the time, was paged and arrived at the hospital within 20 minutes. Seeing that the bird’s life wasn’t in immediate danger, she drove five minutes to her home to retrieve a camera.
“I’ve seen quite a few fish hooks in my day but this was so extreme,” Baker said. “I wanted whoever was responsible for this to see what they had done to this poor little guy.”
She guessed the bird had been hooked for just a few hours and noticed that it had torn the webbing on its feet trying to escape.
“My guess is that he got caught up in this and flipped out and started to do everything he could to get out,” she said. “He used his feet and the line just tore into his webbing.”
During the surgery, she used surgical glue on the webbing, which bonded it back together.
“I think what happen is that some guy was out fishing, got snagged, cut the line and the little guy saw the lure and thought, ‘chow time,'” she said.
Baker sedated the bird, then got to work with a pair of wire cutters and a surgical knife. One of the prongs lodged directly in the bird’s lower eyelid, scratching its cornea.
“They were in there pretty good,” she said. “Because of the barbs, you can’t just pull it out. You have to make an incision first, enough to where it can’t attach itself to anything as you pull.”
Before and after the surgery, she doused the bird’s eye with an antibiotic ointment. As the sedative wore off, it became restless in the cage.
“Gulls don’t liked confined areas. It got to a point where he just wanted to be set free and there was nothing we could do,” she said. “I was afraid that if we were to keep it overnight, we would have came back and its wings would have been broken.”
Assured the bird would survive, Baker took it back to Zephyr Cove and released it before sunset.
“He flew around. Found a rock. Swam a little while and found a flock of other birds. We watched him for about 20 minutes and then he was gone.”
Baker said she never had a chance to thank Ferranto for rescuing the animal.
“It’s really quite telling the bird would just walk up to him the way it did,” she said.
Ferranto says he’s just happy the bird is free from pain and will likely have a full recovery.
“I go to the beach anymore and I’m amazed at all the trash I see there,” he said. “People just don’t think about what they leave behind. Especially people who fish from the shore.”
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User