By Adam Ganucheau
SALTILLO – A Saltillo animal hospital is hosting an unusual patient this week, and an animal cruelty investigation has been launched.
A Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks officer dropped off an American white pelican to Saltillo Small Animal Hospital on Monday, and it is being treated for shotgun wounds.
“The pelican has tiny shotgun pellet wounds,” said veterinarian John Morris. “We are just letting the wounds heal and treating the bird with antibiotics.”
MDWFP Officer Richard Stephen received a call Monday afternoon about an injured bird in a pond near the intersection of Ingomar Road and Martintown Road in Union County southwest of New Albany. Stephen retrieved the pelican, which is a federally protected species, from the pond and drove it to the animal clinic in Saltillo.
Morris said that wildlife admissions to the clinic are not uncommon at all. In a year’s time, Morris said that the clinic typically has 50-60 wildlife patients, ranging from foxes to raccoons to hawks.
“I have a state license to treat wildlife for a short amount of time,” he said. “I have an interest in helping out wildlife any chance I get.”
Stephen said that the MDWFP has launched an investigation similar to the federal investigation that involves the death of a bald eagle. There is still an open investigation in Union County from January where a bald eagle was killed.
“These kinds of investigations can be tough,” Stephen said. “We don’t know where the bird was shot. Most likely it was shot somewhere else and flew to the pond we found it in. Right now it’s just hard to say.”
The next stop for the pelican is uncertain. Morris hoped to send it to Mississippi Wildlife Rehabilitation, a licensed long-term wildlife rehabilitation care center in Lake Cormorant. However, the center’s director, Val Smith, said the facility does not have space for the pelican.
The animal clinic will continue to find a different long-term rehabilitation facility for the bird and will house it until a permanent solution is achieved.
Morris is optimistic that the bird will make a full recovery and can be released into the wild soon.
“It is a little disappointing to give it up to the long-term facility because you want to see it until it recovers fully,” Morris said. “We are doing our best to find it a new home.”
If anyone has information about the shooting, MDWFP urges people to call the Northeast region hotline at (662) 840-5172.