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Bird with fishing hook in stomach undergoes life-saving surgery

MIAMI -- A Northern Gannet bird had major life-saving surgery on Tuesday, but doctors say now it's a waiting game when it comes to his survival, reported CBS Miami.

"We did this quick X-ray while he was awake and there's a very large hook in his stomach," said Dr. Antonia Gardner with the South Florida Wildlife Center explained.

And that's not all.

"He was also shot. There's two very small pellets -- one in his wing, one in either his back or abdomen area," said Dr. Gardner.

People on Delray Beach found the Gannet Monday morning just sitting on the beach. Those birds are normally either bobbing on the water or flying over it. When it didn't move, they knew something was very wrong.

"You could definitely see a string and the gentleman felt his neck and you could feel the (hook) in his throat. We knew he was in bad shape," said Deborah Dexter who helped the bird.

That's when people nearby jumped into action and rescued the bird. Dexter found out, even injured, this is a strong animal.

"It basically just bit me... and underneath the nose, so just took a big chunk," said Dexter.

The bird eventually made it to the operating table at the South Florida Wildlife Center.

CBS Miami crews were there as the giant hook was pulled out. Rescuer Lori Leveen was there too.

"My heart is beating. I started crying watching the surgery," said Leveen. "It's feisty and strong enough to be a fighter. That's what it takes. I'm just praying that with this wonderful work they're doing right now that he comes out alive and I can be there when he's released."

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Northern Gannet bird in distress in Southern Florida. CBS Miami

"It was a tricky surgery," said Dr. Gardner.

The bird has a tough recovery ahead. That huge hook tore the bird's esophagus, meaning there could be infection.

"I kind of give him a 50-50 chance, maybe a little less because of the perforation. We don't know how much damage, how long it was in there," said Dr. Gardner.

The teachable moment in all this is properly dispose of those fishing lines and hooks.

"It makes me feel like we all have to take care of our world and clean up our mess," said Leveen.

The next 48 hours are going to be crucial to this bird's survival. During that time they'll be giving that bird a lot of antibiotics and attention.