NAPLES, Fla - Hooked pelicans are a growing problem in Naples. It's a growing problem in Naples where dozens of pelicans are coming into the von Arx Wildlife Hospital in Naples tangled in fishing line and severely injured by hooks.
Wildlife officials say the number of injured pelicans is drastically increasing in just the last few weeks.
It's a sight that is becoming all too familiar at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital in Naples. Injured pelicans hooked and tangled in fishing line and holes in their throat making it nearly impossible to eat without help.
"The wounds can be very serious. From having them ingest the hooks to where they need surgery to remove the hooks. Some of them can't survive that so that's as severe as it gets," say Joanna Fitzgerald, Wildlife Hospital Director at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital.
In 2012, they treated 79 injured pelicans. In the last two weeks, 32 have come in, 10 of which have died.
Officials say the birds that end up at the hospital often come from the Naples Pier where suddenly dozens of pelicans constantly sit waiting for food.
"the number of birds congregating in this area, looking for the easy meal has increased. I don't know if it's red tide. The birds aren't coming in with red tide effects, but they are being pushed in for whatever reason," says Fitzgerald.
Thursday, Anne-Catherine Polayes and her four year old daughter left the pier disappointed after an afternoon attempt at fishing.
"They just wait for you to bring in the fish and right when you're pulling it out of the water.. Bam they'll go and catch it and they get caught by the lure," says Polayes.
Wildlife officials are teaming up with the city of Naples to try and prevent the problem. Soon signs will be posted along the pier, but anglers like Anne-Catherine are still puzzled as to why all of a sudden there's such a problem.
She says, "I feel really sorry for what is happening and I don't understand why because I have been fishing here for years. I don't get it. Why now?"
Rehabing these birds back to health is very costly. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has a year-end fundraiser where all donations will be matched until December 31. https://www.conservancy.org/2013-annual-appeal