MIAMI (CBSMiami) - South Florida Wildlife Center, the largest trauma center for wildlife in the United States, is in need of the community's help to keep helping animals in need.
Pelicans and seabirds make up a good chunk of the patients at the center.
Dr. Antonia Gardner explains that nearly all of the pelicans in one enclosure are recovering from hook injuries and they can be quite serious.
An x-ray shows a hook deep inside a pelican. Vets were able to reach inside and remove the hook.
"We can sort of reach in there while they are asleep and take it out," explained South Florida Wildlife Center Medical Director Dr. Antonia Gardner.
"It is usually a very non-invasive, non-painful procedure and it really avoids us having to open them up and cut their stomach and take out the hook," she said.
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Then there are birds like a Royal Tern that required assistance.
"He's very weak but still feisty," she said as the bird snapped at her during an exam. Nico Frascatore found it with a hook in its wing on the Pompano Beach Pier.
"It looked like it was dying, it was getting too much heat. It looked like it was going to pass out," Frascastore explained. "So, I lifted it up, got comfortable with it and pulled a fishing hook out of its wing," he explained.
In many instances, it's best to let the experts remove the hooks, but in some cases, the birds look pretty good.
About three-quarters of the sea birds that come in are suffering from hook injuries. Much of this can be avoided by proper hook and line disposal. Still, this is a busy hospital.
"By volume, we are the largest trauma center in the United States for wildlife," explained Alessandra Medri.
Medri is the CEO of the South Florida Wildlife Center, which literally has a new lease on life.
Just as it was about to lose its lease and at the same time, lost its partnership with the Humane Society of the United States, Broward County renewed the lease and the center has remained open as an independent wildlife hospital.
"We're hopeful," said Medri, "but we still need the help from the community because we are entirely non-profit, we rely solely on donations," she said.
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