SB Wildlife Care Network's Patient of the Week: Herring Gull
Source: Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network
On Halloween the folks at the Santa Barbara Bait Shop called the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network about a gull with a hook stuck in its feet and fishing line stuck in its mouth on Stearn’s Wharf. When the gull arrived at the Wildlife Care Center, staff quickly and safely removed the hook in the gull’s foot. An x-ray revealed that the line coming out of the gull’s mouth was attached to a hook in the lower esophagus. That would be more tricky to remove, but wildlife veterinarian Dr. Avery Berkowitz had a plan.
Since the fishing line was still attached, Dr. Berkowitz was able to follow the line down to the hook, then carefully manipulate the hook out with a tube without letting the hook damage the bird on the way out. The extraction was a success!
Quick PSA: If there is a hooked animal, do not attempt to remove the hook yourself or try to cut the hook or line. It would have been much more difficult to remove the hook embedded in this gull’s esophagus without the line still attached and accessible.
This gull’s journey did not stop there, though. X-rays also revealed a mandible fracture and some overgrown bill keratin making it difficult for the gull to eat. Staff anesthetized the gull and prepared for surgery to correct the bird’s beak. Staff needed to make sure the mandible was healing 100% perfectly straight, otherwise the gull may have issues with eating and beak keratin overgrowth in the future. Dr. Berkowitz used a dremel to shave down the bird’s overgrown beak keratin. Then, staff re-fractured the beak to set it in the right position and inserted 4 small pins through the mandible, connected by a bar and screws on each side to hold the beak in the right place. The bars were wrapped, and the gull woke up normally from anesthesia.
X-ray image showing the pins and screws placed in the gull's mandible to correct the beak alignment
Veterinary technicians at Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network give the gull a checkup to make sure his beak is healing well
The pins were removed about three weeks later. The beak was nice and straight! The holes from the pin sites are healing well. Dr. Berkowitz expects the gull will be ready for life in the wild soon!
Fishing line, hooks, and nets are big threats to wildlife, especially seabirds, marine mammals, and freshwater species. Please remember to “clear your gear,” and call the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network’s HELPline at (805) 681-1080 if you see a wild animal in need.
To help animals like this gull, make a donation by visiting https://www.sbwcn.org/donate