Pelican is rescued by Orange Beach Wildlife Center staff.By John Mullen

November 6, 2018 – Orange Beach, AL (OBA®) – Walking the beach in the early morning semi-darkness is routine for Skie Brown. She looks at the tapestry the sun paints on the clouds as it slowly rises out of the Gulf and snaps pictures and videos until it has completely freed itself of the horizon.

She loves seeing the animals as well. On this Oct. 29 she thought there in the dawn light she saw a familiar sight. But there was something unfamiliar about it.

“That morning in the dark I thought there’s my little heron but gosh, he looks short,” she said. “I thought it must be a baby because it looked so short. I got closer and noticed he was wide and fat and thought ‘that’s not a heron.’”

Pelican RescueThere just out of the surf was a pelican. But it wasn’t acting like any pelican she’d ever seen before. It didn’t act alarmed or like it was wary of her presence. It was the beginning of rescue chronicled on The OBA Group on Facebook. It’s a site where locals, property owners and visitors alike can share pictures or videos from along the Alabama/Florida Gulf Coast.

“This was strange,” Skie said. “I thought I was not going to get to him because he’s going to fly away. He just stood there and stood there and stood there. I stooped down and started filming it. I thought ‘fly away, fly away.’ This was weird.”

Skie later learned that several people had noticed the pelican staying in the same place for several days and staff members from the Orange Beach Wildlife Center had already come to check on it the day before.

“A couple of people said they had called and they said the Orange Beach Wildlife had come, thrown a towel over him, he flapped his wings and they left,” Skie said.

Coastal Programs Coordinator Melissa Vinson of the center said staff there was concerned about the pelican but wasn’t sure if they should take action.

“We couldn’t see any obvious injuries and he’s young,” Vinson said. “At that young of age, they may be resting or sleeping. We decided to just continue to monitor because he didn’t have any obvious injuries and he could still fly away from us. We continued to get calls about him.”

The next day it was still there and Skie was watching the bird and talking to it and knew she had to do something.

Obie before his rescue.“I got closer and started talking and saying it’s OK, it’s OK,” Skie said. “I didn’t see any injuries but I thought something’s wrong. I told him I’d be back. I kept walking and kept turning around and looking. It’s weird because he faced the water until I got up there and he faced me. He could walk but he didn’t fly away though. He’d turn around and I saw his eyes. He listened to me. I know he did and I know they are smart.”

Skie kept trying to leave but something about the look in its eyes kept tugging her back.

“I tried a couple of times to leave but every time I told him I’d be back and he would turn around and watch me like ‘you’re leaving me?’” she said. “’You told me you wouldn’t leave.’”

She decided then and there she wasn’t going to rest until help came again for the pelican. She went inside, retrieved a beach chair, sunscreen and a supply of water when she got a call back from the wildlife center.

“I ran past the front desk and I was crying and they were asking what was wrong,” she said. “Right before I got on the elevator the supervisor from the Orange Beach Wildlife Center had heard my message and called me back and said somebody would be there as soon as they could.

“I said I’m not leaving the beach until somebody takes care of this pelican because I told him I would not abandon him.”

Her emotions were pushed over the edge when the pelican wandered into the water but didn’t swim or fly away.

“I kept talking to him and talking to him and water was washing over his legs,” Skie said. “I thought he had given up. I just sat there and cried.”

When wildlife center staff arrived and were able to slowly approach and capture the still stunned pelican.

“It was still sleeping,” Vinson said. “Upon evaluation, we could tell he’d been eating very well and wasn’t malnourished. We didn’t see any major issues. There was just one small little wound in his wing. I’m thinking it may have been a fishing line or hook that caused a hole in the wing. We think it might have been a little bit sore which is why he was resting.”

As of Nov. 6, he was still undergoing rehab at the center where he received antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. And is eating 10 to 15 fish a day.

“We plan on releasing him but we have to make sure all goes according to plan, finish out the medication,” Vinson said. “We don’t want any antibiotic resistance and things like that and make sure the wound heals up. We’ve seen him flapping around a little bit but we want to make sure he has that full range of motion.”

Meanwhile, the pelican Skie dubbed Obie was a Facebook sensation for a few days as Skie reported progress through The OBA Group on the social media site. Hundreds of people said they were praying for Obie and frequently asked about his condition.

“They told me they don’t typically name them so they don’t get too attached but your welcome to name them if you want to,” Skie said. “So, I named him Obie. I had somebody yesterday when I was walking on the beach ask for an update on Obie. I guess I was the crazy lady talking to the pelican the day before. I was sitting on the beach talking to him and crying.”

Vinson said the center is home to about 30 to 40 animals at any one time, some used for education and some being rehabbed before being turned back to the wild. The education animals aren’t able to be rehabbed and released so they become residents. The most frequent calls are about shorebirds tangled in fishing lines or hooks or baby orphaned mammals or birds.

“We see a lot of mammals such as squirrels, raccoons, possums, even baby birds,” Vinson said. “That a lot of times is an unintentional kidnapping that they do. They see it and go ‘oh my goodness, it needs my help.’ But normally mom is close around. Our first course of action is to try and talk them through a reunite. Sometimes they don’t know who to call and so they take care of it for a few days. By that point, it’s kind of difficult to reunite with mom and dad.”

If you have any questions about wildlife or see animals that are injured or acting oddly, Vinson said residents should call Orange Beach Police dispatch at 251-981-9777. Anyone outside of Orange Beach should call 844-303-9452.

Update 11/10/2018: This is the story of “Obie” the juvenile brown pelican that some of you might have heard about through social media. For those of you who haven’t, this pelican had a minor wing injury that caused him to rest along the shores. A few citizens in the area reached out to us concerned about his well being. After initial evaluation we observed that although he seemed tired, he still was strong enough to fly away from us multiple times. Per the regulations laid out by US Fish and Wildlife, if no injury is seen, the animal can effectively evade capture and hunt, we aren’t to intervene. The following morning we received some more calls that he was still hanging around. So we were back at the beach first thing. This time intern Thomas Rossman II was able to sneak up on him while he was sleeping to make the capture. Overall he was healthy, with the exception of a small wound on his wing. We gave him some time to rest at the center before we sent him along his way. He gained some social media attention when one of the finders/callers - @skie brown posted about him on Facebook. If you watch the video until the end you can hear the rockstar send off that seemed rather appropriate for this social media celebrity! Good luck, “Obie!”

This injury was probably due to a fishing hook, which unfortunately a common problem we see with our shorebirds. Please remember to properly dispose of monofilament and hooks, cover your bait and catches and never feed the wildlife. “Obie” was one of the fortunate ones, however most are not this lucky.