When Birds in Helping Hands, a Seminole-based wildlife rescue, recently received repeated calls about injured pelicans near the Boca Ciega Yacht Club, 4600 Tifton Dr. S., it drew concern from the rehabilitators.
But the culprit isn’t a sinister one.
According to Birds in Helping Hands co-founder Shelley Vickery, fisherman using the fish-cleaning station have been spotted throwing fish heads and entire carcasses to the pelicans that wait for scraps on the sidelines.
“A lot of fisherman just don’t realize,” Vickery said. “The pelicans are used to smooth fish, not mullet heads.”
According to Vickery, eating these large unnatural amounts of fish can cause the birds to choke or even starve to death when they cannot swallow their prize.
“Other birds eat small pieces, but pelicans eat the fish whole and it gets stuck,” Vickery said. “We’ve been getting a lot of calls around the yacht club area, so we strongly suspect.”
To combat this, Birds in Helping Hands is working with the Boca Ciega Yacht Club to put a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission-issued sign up that will deter those using the fish-cleaning station from feeding the birds.
The 24” by 18” sign that gives tips on keeping the wildlife safe will be hung over the cleaning station in the marina area of the club.