‘Bert’ the pelican finally heads home


SMITHFIELD, R.I. (WPRI) — A brown pelican stranded in Rhode Island is finally going home. 

“Bert” the pelican’s journey was delayed due to the government shutdown, but after spending more than a month up north, he’s finally been given the green light to “fly” home.

Jon Pascua carried the precious cargo and he said it’s not quite what he’s used to.

“Usually I carry animals with four legs and have fur, not feathers and two legs,” Pascua said.

Pascua is a volunteer with Pilots ‘N Paws, a nonprofit that helps bring rescue dogs to their new homes.

“I got reached out to by somebody who said they needed to get this brown pelican home and immediately I knew what they were talking about because I saw it all over the news,” Pascua said.

Wildlife experts think Bert the pelican got stuck in the jetstream last month and was blown too far north.

“It’s very unusual we do not get pelicans in Rhode Island, even in the summer,” Veterinarian Chi Chan, of the Wildlife Rehabilitators Association said.

Bert was discovered on the docks of Galilee and was taken to the Wildlife Rehabilitators Association of Rhode Island on Jan. 7. He was treated for hypothermia and frostbite.

Unfortunately, the 35-day government shutdown left the pelican stranded in the Ocean State.

“When we move animals in airplanes we have to have manifests show, we have permits and stuff to move them across state lines, and they’re issued by the federal government. And they couldn’t obtain that stuff, they couldn’t obtain health certificates and they couldn’t obtain the permits to be able to move him along, so he’s been here a lot longer than he should have,” Chan said.

But Bert’s big day arrived Sunday. Eyewitness News was there when he finally took flight.

“He’s actually joining six birds, six young pelicans in North Carolina, and eventually he will be released further south with other pelicans,” Chan said.

There’s no timeline as to when Bert will be released back into the wild.

That all depends on how quickly the 1-year-old can get used to hunting and being around other pelicans.

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