Puntzi Lake pelicans fly commercial after chilly rescue

By Cailin Cousins / Got News Network
November 29, 2018 - 2:16pm

PUNTZI LAKE, B.C. — During the American White Pelican’s migration, it has stopped to breed on Stum Lake in the Chilcotin region since 1939. In fact, the government created White Pelican Provincial Park, located approximately 60 km northwest of Williams Lake on the Chilcotin Plateau, to provide security for the pelican nesting sites. Stum Lake, within White Pelican Provincial Park, is closed to the public from March 1 to Aug. 31 every year to protect the White Pelican nesting colony. This colony of American White Pelicans is the only nesting colony in British Columbia. They are very sensitive to disturbance; disturbances can result in the loss of all young.

Ingrid Myckatyn has lived at nearby Puntzi Lake off and on since 1991, and wildlife viewing is a large part of her love for the area.

"The pelicans have been a passion of mine ever since they arrived to nest here four years ago," she said. "For some reason, they began nesting here at Puntzi. No one seems to know if it's predation or human conflict that made them seek out new nesting grounds."

Ingrid was told there was a successful hatch at Stum Lake this year. She reports there were 60 to 70 chicks hatched on that island on Puntzi Lake the first year, and more than 300 nests on the island this year.

"Birds that hatch there will likely return there to nest in the same location when it's their time." 

The birds are usually gone by the end of September for the most part, but Ingrid has noted a couple lingering into late October or very early November in past years. So, when she saw three of the majestic birds swimming in front of her home in late November, she knew something was wrong.

"This was just extreme," she remarked, adding that she watched for them, and would see them off and on as the month went by. "Sometimes I'd see all three, other times, just the two of them. I believe one was a juvenile." 

Fortunately the region has enjoyed a mild autumn, and that may be the only saving grace for these stragglers. The lowest temperature Ingrid has recorded at her house was -12 C on Nov. 17.

"In their weakened state, colder temperatures would have resulted in a slow painful death for them."

On Monday, when she spotted the pelicans again, Ingrid turned to Google for some help. She first left a message for Northern Lights Rescue. Next, she emailed Julie Steciw, a Wildlife Biologist with the provincial government based in Williams Lake. And finally, she spoke with Sue Burton at Second Chance Animal Rescue.

Sue was the first to respond, and had spoken to Steciw, as well. With people and a plan in place, Steciw and a co-worker were shuttled out into the lake by a helpful Puntzi Lake resident, and the birds were rounded up Tuesday morning.

"It happened pretty quick, and as little stress as possible was caused for the birds," Ingrid recounted, adding that none of the birds could fly at this time. Safely housed in crates, the birds were taken to Williams Lake to be vet-checked.

Ingrid waited all day Wednesday for word on the pelicans' conditions and fate. Thursday morning (Nov. 29), Ingrid spoke with Burton at Second Chance Animal Rescue, who advised her the mom had a broken wing, as did one of the babies. The third pelican was also a baby and checked out fine. Burton drove the rescued White Pelicans to the airport this morning for their flight to another rescue in Burnaby. 

The timing couldn't have been better, according to Ingrid, as temperatures dropped to -18 C at the Puntzi Lake airport this morning.

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