The ringing of Lynn Tompkins’ cell phone often means her day is about to take a U-turn.

On Monday afternoon, the caller was a young man worried about an injured American white pelican he and his girlfriend spotted along Pendleton’s river walk. Could she come and rescue the bird and take it to her rehabilitation facility?

Tompkins, the owner of Blue Mountain Wildlife at 71046 Appaloosa Lane, often picks up sick, injured or orphaned wildlife for rehabilitation. The current guest list includes an electrocuted hawk, a fledgling barn owl that crash-landed while learning to fly, a blind kestrel and a bald eagle with a broken clavicle.

Tompkins, who was away from the facility at the moment, phoned one of her interns to bring nets and headed to the Main Street Bridge, where she eyed the injured pelican hunkered down in some grass below. When she tried to approach for a better look, however, the bird swam to the opposite riverbank, favoring one of its wings. Tompkins gazed at the pelican and worried aloud.

“When you see a pelican all alone, it usually means something is wrong,” she said.

She said the birds generally travel in large groups, using their large numbers to drive fish to shallow water where the pelicans fill their elastic throat pouches with their wiggly prey.

Her intern, Michigan native McKinley Bell, arrived carrying several nets and wearing some rubber boots. Anthony Jordan Elder, the Pendleton man who had called Tompkins, took one of the nets and the pair waded into the river, approaching the bird from different directions. Soon, chest-high in the water, they converged, trapping the apprehensive bird in their nets. Bell wrapped a towel around the pelican and carried it to shore where Tompkins waited. Along the way, the bird jabbed Bell with the hook on the end of its long bill.

A crowd had gathered and a couple of elementary school-aged boys gawked at the bird and helped Tompkins carry equipment back to the truck.

Later, she got a good look. The pelican’s right wing was a mess with a shattered ulna and radius; the bird had likely flown into a wire. It would probably be euthanized, but at least it wouldn’t die a slow death.

Tompkins urged people to be careful if they choose to rescue a bird on their own. Long-billed birds such as pelicans can inflict damage, she warned.

“Herons will aim for your eyes,” she said.

She recommended wearing gloves, using a towel to wrap the head and having a container at the ready for transport. Tompkins said birds that need specialized care, such as the pelican, are taken to the Pendleton Veterinary Clinic. As she waited to learn the bird’s fate, she got another call — a man in La Grande had found an injured owl. Could he bring it over?

“Of course,” she said.

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Contact Kathy Aney at kaney@eastoregonian.com or call 541-966-0810.

 

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