Pelican Hooked and Snared in Fishing Line Rescued and Recovering at Oakland Zoo Veterinary Hospital

Oakland Zoo
October 28, 2021

Oakland Zoo was alerted of the injured pelican who was suffering from a fishhook wound

Oakland, CA – October 28, 2021… Yesterday afternoon Oakland Zoo received and responded to a call from distressed citizens visiting Lake Merritt, reporting a pelican suffering from a large fishhook lodged into its throat as well as fishing line encircling its neck and bill. The improperly disposed of fishing gear had been preventing the animal from being able to eat or drink for weeks.


Using two kayaks and a small motorboat to reach and then capture the pelican, Oakland Zoo’s VP of Animal Care, Colleen Kinzley, and Zoological Managers Ann Marie Bisagno and Andrea Dougall, then transported the bird to Oakland Zoo’s Veterinary Hospital for treatment.


‘Merritt’ the American White pelican receives treatment at Oakland Zoo Veterinary Hospital

Upon arrival at the Zoo, veterinary staff examined the bird, administered fluids, conducted a blood draw, and examined the injured area on the neck. From initial observations, the veterinary staff determined the pelican suffered from dehydration, starvation, and based on the bloodwork appeared to have possible anemia.  


After examinations, Dr. Alex Herman, VP of Veterinary Service sat Oakland Zoo removed the one-inch barbed fishing hook from the pelican’s neck.


The pelican has now been aptly nicknamed ‘Merritt’ by Oakland Zoo staff.


Veterinary staff have successfully fed Merritt smelt and capelin fish, which is a hopeful sign of recovery. For now, Merritt will remain at Oakland Zoo’s Veterinary Hospital for ongoing wound treatment and recovery. 


Many coastal birds and other marine life are injured or killed each year by cut and discarded fishing lines, associated hooks, and tackle.

The pelican suffered from a fishing lure and hook injury to its bill and neck


“Untold numbers of birds, turtles and other wildlife are affected by this solvable issue. Proper disposal of fishing line is crucial, and every citizen can help by picking up any fishing items found in nature”, says Amy Gotliffe, Vice President of Conservation at Oakland Zoo.


These items are improperly disposed of on beaches or from fishing boats. The wildlife either becomes entangled in the fishing lines or experiences debilitating injuries. Between 2002 and 2015, a study by the Audubon Society reports that California-based International Bird Rescue treated at least 2,957 birds for injuries caused by fishing gear.

Oakland Zoo removed the one-inch barbed fishing hook from the pelican’s neck


Oakland Zoo urges guests and the public to join them in Taking Action for Wildlife by changing fishing habits to help save birds and other marine life like ‘Merritt’ the pelican.


When fishing, never leave behind lures, hooks, fishing lines, or bait. Dispose of any gear properly in box or similar enclosed receptacle within designated disposal areas or at home.

Oakland Zoo is normally contacted by wildlife organizations to rescue animals. This is a rare occurrence for the Zoo to answer a public call. If you encounter injured wildlife, please call your local animal control center.





Isabella Linares

Oakland Zoo

Office: 510-632-9525 ext. 239


Erin Harrison

Oakland Zoo

Office: 510-632-9525 ext. 120






Oakland Zoo, home to more than 850native and exotic animals, is managed by the Conservation Society of California(CSC); a non-profit organization leading an informed and inspired community in Taking Action for Wildlife locally and globally. With over 25 conservation partners and projects worldwide, the CSC is committed to conservation-based education and saving species and their habitats in the wild. Oakland Zoo is dedicated to the humane treatment of animals and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the national organization that sets the highest standards for animal welfare for zoos and aquariums.