Solon vet saves injured pelicans life, finds him new home at Detroit Zoo

A veterinarian in Solon spent the past three months helping a lone, injured White American Pelican spread his wings again.
Published: Feb. 9, 2021 at 4:46 AM CST
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SOLON, Iowa (KCRG) - It was a 34 degree November day when veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Doll, her son, and a friend, rescued an injured White American Pelican with kayaks just off of Curtis Bridge Road in a reservoir about a mile south of Shueyville.

For about a month Dr. Doll says she noticed the pelican, now called Nigel, on the reservoir. She said he would have died if he didn’t get help soon and she knew Nigel had to be injured, otherwise he would have migrated with his friends to a warmer location for the winter.

Doll said it took more than an hour and lots of paddling to reach him in the reservoir the second week of November, and the water was near freezing, but after much commotion, Nigel was rescued. She said the Iowa Department of Natural Resources told her rescuing Nigel wasn’t in their scope, but they gave her the okay to rescue him if she wished.

Doll described Nigel as weak and underweight when she first rescued him, weighing only 10 pounds with a broken wing. Then just days after she thought he wasn’t going to make it, his personality came to life.

”Suddenly, with some minnows, he seemed to snap out of his state and suddenly was this very docile dog-like creature. It shocked me. I was very worried he was going to die, because again, usually the wild pelicans are trying to bite you constantly,” Doll said.

Nigel currently weighs around 17 pounds and can flap his wings with pride, but Dr. Doll said he’ll never be able to fly again. With his injuries, she said Nigel needed to find a permanent home that could keep a migratory bird, or he most likely would’ve been euthanized.

Doll said Nigel is usually really talkative, even coming to his name when she asks. Now in just a few weeks, he is heading to his new home at the Detroit Zoo.

She said zoos usually have small flocks of flightless birds, and it just so happened the Detroit Zoo had one open spot for Nigel. Doll added that Nigel’s dashing and animated personality was too good not to share with the world.

“If you have a fish or whatever and you call him, he just waddles on over to you. And if he’s a little bored he kind of goes over to the mirror and pecks a little bit and then he comes back and checks on what you’re doing. He’s a real special bird. They’re magnificent birds,” Doll said.

Doll said because Nigel will travel through six states before he arrives at his new home at the Detroit Zoo, the paperwork does take a while, but she hopes Nigel will be heading to the zoo within the next few weeks, meeting his new friends and family.

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