It is with a heavy heart that I must inform Peace River Wildlife Center’s supporters that our male American white pelican, Bobo, passed away recently. He had been suffering from an unusual condition in his throat for years. Bobo transferred to PRWC from the Wildlife Center of Venice July 28, 2008. He had been treated there for a broken wing and ended up with his left wrist frozen in place so he was not able to fly since he could not fully extend it. Upon admission here he had a little plaque in his throat that resolved fairly quickly. Over the years the condition waxed and waned, seemingly seasonally, regardless of how we treated (or didn’t.)
We submitted tissue samples for culture and sensitivity testing and biopsies for pathology. None of the results were ever conclusive as to the nature of the condition or a specific and successful treatment plan. Each year we tried treating with systemic and topical antibiotics, antifungals, anti-inflammatories, parasiticides, and multiple combinations of all of them. Some years we treated merely with tincture of time. Each year the condition would eventually get better, but then come back again the following year. And each year it seemed to cover a slightly larger area and last a little longer.
This year the overgrown areas of tissue encroached on Bobo’s glottis and threatened his ability to breath. One of our local veterinarians, Dr. John Rand of The Animal Clinic in Port Charlotte, helped with an aggressive treatment plan trying to debride the area to help keep Bobo more comfortable. Despite all of our efforts Bobo succumbed to the disease. The white pelican’s average age in the wild is about 10 years. Since Bo was an adult when he came in, we have no idea how old he was. He lived a great life here at PRWC and we will miss him.
Although Bobo had been separated from his “flock” out by PRWC’s pelican pond in preceding weeks while we treated him, he had recently been placed back out in the pond area so he could be surrounded by his buddies. PRWC also has a dozen brown pelicans as permanent residents that cannot be released due to their inability to fly. As our only white pelican at the time, Bobo had been towering over his little brown cousins since his arrival in 2008.
In 2011 we admitted another white pelican, a female we named Bebe. As soon as she was placed in the pelican yard Bobo ran toward her at breakneck speed, which for a huge bird on stumpy little legs is really not all that fast, but he scared the heck out of her. He obviously meant her no harm, but she just as obviously didn’t realize that. She was terrified of him for weeks. He would chase her around and around the pond. Eventually she warmed up to him and the two of them became inseparable. Bebe was with Bobo when he passed away. We are keeping a close eye on her to make sure she continues to eat and act normally.
We do have a little surprise for her in a week or so. Although PRWC can go years without getting a white pelican as a patient, we admitted another one in the days preceding Bobo’s death. We will introduce this new resident in the weeks to come and hopefully he or she will help fill the void in Bebe’s heart and ours as we wish Bobo a swift journey over the rainbow bridge.
by-Robin Jenkins, DVM