Anna and Jim Ostovani of Arroyo Grande were walking on the beach recently with their dogs Bella and Pazzo.
“Look at that,” Jim exclaimed, “there’s a big pelican — it can hardly walk!”
The large bird was limping. Its leg and wings were “wrapped and wrapped” in fishing line. It couldn’t open its wings. They found three fishing hooks embedded in its wings and a leg.
“You could tell blood wasn’t flowing” to the foot, Anna said.
Then they found another hook under its neck.
Jim and Anna didn’t know what to do or whom to call. Others on the beach “could care less” and went away. Jim called fire and police officials and was told to call the marine life rescue people. He reached them and they said they would be out within an hour to take care of the pelican.
That didn’t seem good enough.
“It’s not right — let’s see if we can do something,” Jim said.
They wondered, “How are we going to help? How can we cut the fishing wire?”
They asked a man on the beach, who, it happened, had a cigar clipper and a lighter. How could they secure the bird so it would let them get close? They threw a jacket over its head, but the jacket blew off.
They made a noose out of their dog leash to secure the bird’s beak. The man on the beach held the body of the bird down, so Jim could work on it. It was hard to remove the hooks, but they managed to do it, with Jim rubbing the bird’s feet. They cut away all the fishing wire.
After Jim and Anna finished releasing the big bird from its hooks and wires, the bird “got up and stood there for the longest time,” Anna said. It appeared blood was flowing back into its foot. Then it flapped its wings and after about eight or 10 minutes, began moving toward the water.
“He was floating around real happy,” she added.
Jim called marine life rescue to report that they took care of the situation and freed the pelican. The worker replied that she was just about to come over.
Jim and Anna moved to Arroyo Grande about a year-and-half ago from Orange County. They had come up to the Central Coast to visit a friend, and fell in love with the area. It felt laid-back and green and reminded Anna of her native Germany. They are self-employed and own a construction company. Jim is an electrical engineer and Anna does the books.
A few days after the pelican rescue, they went to Port San Luis. They saw a bunch of pelicans, and saw two who had some kind of wire around them.
“A lot of birds lose their lives because of this,” Anna remarked.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. This weekend is the annual SLO County Coastal and Creek Cleanup Day, from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. South County sites include Olde Port Beach, Avila Beach, Pirates Cove, Shell Beach and the Pismo Beach Pier.
For more information, directions, or to find other sites countywide, go to www.ecoslo.org, or call 544-1777.
Gayle Cuddy’s column is special to The Tribune. She and Cynthia Lambert write the South County Beat column on alternating Wednesdays. Reach Cuddy at 489-1026 or firstname.lastname@example.org.