Watch this pelican have surgery to fix two broken legs

NOBLE, Okla. -- Did you know landlocked Oklahoma is home to large sea birds during the winter months?

In fact, the Sooner State is part of a migratory route for North American pelicans.

On Thursday, a first-year pelican found herself in desperate need of some medical attention after crash landing on I-35 near the Texas border.

"We had rain the other day," said WildCare Foundation director, Rhondi Large. "The road could have looked like water to a young pelican, especially at night during migration. I think she was hit by a car."

The bird broke both legs, and pelicans cannot take flight without the use of their legs.

A concerned citizen rescued the wounded bird and brought it to the Noble, Oklahoma wild animal hospital, WildCare.

The pelican is the guest of honor this week, as WildCare doesn't often treat pelicans in their woody Cleveland County facility.

"She looks good right now. So, physically she's stable but both of her injuries are serious," Large said of the pelican.

Surgery

Large and veterinary surgeon, Dr. Linda Miller, take the pelican into surgery about 10 a.m. Friday.

The medical team anesthetizes the bird using a large plastic bag because her beak is too long for any of the usual respiratory equipment.

Large and Miller set the legs with surgical pins and then hope for healing.

They treat only two or three pelicans a year, each year. This female pelican is the first so far this season.

"We've got it," Large smiles as she examines a mid-procedure x-ray showing the pin is perfectly placed to help the leg heal. "We're real happy right now."

Across the room, another medical team starts work on a gray fox that just arrived a few minutes before the pelican's surgery.

The fox is in critical condition, and volunteers are removing pests so they can assess the animal.

It is another typically busy day in the WildCare operating room.

Prognosis

The pelican surgery is a success; Large will wait a few weeks to see if the bones heal enough for the pins to be removed so the bird can be returned to the wild.

The goal is always to return animals to their natural habitat, but that can only happen if the animal is returned to 100 percent and able to survive in the wild.

However, Large says there is hope for this pelican, even if she is never able to fly again.

WildCare treated a pelican a few years ago that lost its ability to fly. The bird lives at Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City, able to hunt fish on the shoreline.

The bird no longer migrates because it cannot fly.

So, if this pelican recovers from surgery, but can no longer fly, she might join her flightless friend in the big city.