HELENA — Winter in Montana can be harsh. That is especially true if you are supposed to be a little farther south right now, which is the case for a currently flightless pelican under the care of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
The long-beaked birds that call Montana home typically take a vacation around now, flying off to warmer climates. But an injury to this pelican’s wing grounded it as temperatures dropped outside of Miles City.
Luckily an eagle-eyed good Samaritan snagged the bird and took care of it. From there it made its way to the Montana Raptor Center in Bozeman before landing - figuratively speaking - at Montana Wild in Helena for rehabilitation. But the journey isn’t over.
“We’ve gotten at least one a year since I’ve been here. It’s not completely uncommon. We try not to overwinter them here because of our facility set-up," Fish Wildlife & Parks Wildlife Rehabilitation Center Program Manager Ali Pons told MTN. "We are able to take care of them well in the spring and summer where we can use our outdoor ponds and areas but we don’t have a good indoor set-up, so when we get them, if possible we will transfer them to another facility that is able to care for them better over the winter.”
So far though, Montana WILD is good enough. Thanks to Ali and the staff at Montana Wild, the bird is on the mend and almost ready to start the next part of its journey to a more hospitable location.
The American White Pelican is a large, white bird with a wingspan that can reach nearly 10 feet in length. The healthier the bird gets, the more difficult it will be to care for it during its rehabilitation.
“We will try and find placement for it at another rehab facility, but what I’d like to have is the bird in good shape and well enough to make the trip because there isn’t a place for rehabilitation that is close," Pons said. "So I want to have it in good weight condition, knowing that it is a releasable bird. Making sure we’ve got it the best condition as we can before transferring it over.”
From the sound of things, that should be sooner rather than later.