Maya Totman, director of the Florida Keys Wildlife Rescue, has helped many birds that have been injured by unnatural causes, including getting caught in fishing line and lobster traps, swallowing plastic bags and being hit by cars.
But Monday morning, she got an unusual call from the Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge.
A guest had found a herring gull and a brown pelican — both with Busch Light beer cans around their necks like collars.
The ends of the cans had been cut off.
“I’ve been here since 1993 and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Totman said.
One bird was found on a camp site and another was by the fish cleaning table on the rustic part of the lodge.
Guest Greg Vogel cut the cans off both birds’ necks with his Swiss Army knife.
The gull’s head was forced through the can, but Vogel said the other can was modified to fit over the pelican’s larger head.
“Somebody must have thought about this for awhile,” Vogel said. “The can had a little bent clip, so it could be wrapped around the pelican’s neck.”
The pelican was easy prey because it was already semi-paralyzed, showing symptoms of avian botulism.
But because of its size, it still probably required two people to put the cans around its neck, Totman said.
The pelican was given tube feedings to flush the toxins from his system.
Eye lubricant also was applied to prevent dryness and development of corneal ulcers.
The gull was starving and gasping for breath when it was found.
“The can was so tight around its neck,” she said.
“If the bird wasn’t found, it probably would have choked to death.”
The gull was given intravenous fluids and fish soup, made from filtered water, table salt and fresh filleted fish all mixed in a blender.
“Both birds are doing great,” Totman said. “But people are really upset. So at the camp they are making a group watch so this stuff stops happening.”