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Pelican shot on Lake Iola

An American white pelican found this summer on Lake Iola continues to recover from its injuries at the Raptor Education Group Inc.’s rehabilitation center near Antigo. Authorities believe someone shot the bird. Photo Courtesy of Raptor Education Group Inc.

Bird recovering in Antigo

By Greg Seubert

An American white pelican found with a gunshot wound on Lake Iola continues to recover at a wildlife rehabilitation facility in northern Wisconsin.

Jonathan Kaiser, a local state Department of Natural Resources conservation warden investigating the incident, said it may have been shot because of the perception that the large birds have a negative effect on a water body’s fish population.

“It sounds like there had been a flock of pelicans present on the Iola millpond earlier this summer,” he said. “It appears to have been shot. Someone may have shot the pelican because of frankly unfounded concerns that pelicans are detrimental to the fish population.

“The reason the pelicans left the millpond when they did is that the millpond’s vegetation grew to a certain point,” he said. “They’re not able to efficiently feed or eat fish, so they get out of there.”

Kaiser believes the bird was shot while other pelicans were still in the area.

“When that flock left, this individual pelican stayed,” he said. “The bird had stuck around long enough where it was fairly obvious that it was injured and unable to fly. It was likely there feeding with other pelicans and its health slowly deteriorated once the other ones left.”

The bird was recently transported to Raptor Education Group Inc.’s rehabilitation center near Antigo.

“My understanding is they are able to work with the bird and hopefully help it make a full recovery.” Kaiser said.

DNR seeks information

Kaiser is seeking information about the incident.

”I don’t have any suspects at this point,” he said. “I’m trying to get any leads on this because this is something that we do not find acceptable. Any information or leads are appreciated. Even if it was in the heat of the moment or a silly mistake, a self-report would be appreciated. We could work with that far more than hearing about it after the fact through a second party.”

Kaiser encouraged anyone with information to call the DNR’s Violation Hotline at 800-847-9367.

“I won’t ever discourage anyone from calling myself, the sheriff’s department or even the Iola Police Department, but I would always recommend giving the hotline a call or a text,” he said. “It is effective, they will let me know about it and that is a great first step.”

American white pelicans, which can weigh up to 30 pounds with a 9-foot-long wingspan. Wisconsin had two nesting pairs in the Green Bay area in 1994, but by 2005, that number had increased to about 1,000 pairs in 2005, 4,000 in 2013 and about 8,000 today, according to the DNR.

They can eat up to 4 pounds of fish daily. They do not dive beneath the surface, but forage in groups and use their bills like a net to scoop fish. Their diet of fish includes minnows, carp and suckers, as well as crayfish and salamanders.

“You may think pelicans impact fish populations, but shooting a protected bird, injuring it and leaving it to suffer, I don’t think anyone can get behind that,” Kaiser said.

The Raptor Education Group gave an update Aug. 27 on its Facebook page.

“Our resilient American white pelican from Iola is making remarkable strides on his road to recovery,” according to the post. “Despite a tragic incident that left him injured, he’s been thriving in our care and has officially moved to the outdoor compound. The sight of him joyfully joining our nonreleasable pelican group was an absolute delight, a testament to his resilience and the dedication of our team.”

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