Video of man ‘hugging’ pelican ruffles feathers

Reporter: Gina Tomlinson Writer: Jackie Winchester
Credit: @saltyadventures_yt/TikTok

A video showing a man “hugging” a pelican is sparking outrage on social media.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says the man isn’t breaking any laws. As long as he was rescuing the bird from a fishing line, he’s protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Some boat captains who saw the video say the man got dangerously close.

“He might think it’s a big joke, but it’s not and the birds going to be traumatized,” said Capt. Gene Luciano with Dalis Fishing Charters.

“It doesn’t look like he was trying to help the thing,” said Mike Hatcher of Naples.

Many fishermen like Hatcher come across pelicans in distress.

“But normally, we keep them on the ground, the wings folded in and the neck on the ground so it doesn’t get hurt,” he said.

Luciano, who has nearly 50 years of experience on the water, says holding a pelican so close is dangerous. He says he had never seen a video like the one we showed him, and he called it “awful.”

“I’ll tell ya, they can hook your eye out. They got a very sharp beak and a big point on the end of it … anyone who would bring them up by their face is very stupid.”

The fisherman in the video told WINK News he rescued the pelican in the Florida Keys from a fishing line that was tangled to a buoy. He says he was checking the bird’s back for hooks when the pelican bit him.

Hatcher can see why.

“You get the hook out and you just back up and they fly off,” he explained. “I try not to hug him on the way out, yeah.”

The fisherman says the pelican was let go.

The FWC has instructions on what you should do if you hook a bird, as well as a Pelican Rescue Brochure.

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