Ring-billed Gull #24-0197

February 26, 2024
March 27, 2024
Rescue Location
Chesterfield County, Virginia
Cause of Admission/Condition
Entrapment, discarded fishing gear
Former Patient
Patient photo

Last Updated Jump to patient updates

On February 26, this Ring-billed Gull was rescued by a Chesterfield County Animal Services Officer after it was found hooked and entangled in a discarded fishing line. A local wildlife rehabilitator was able to remove the hook and line, but the bird’s right leg was injured and it had difficulty bearing weight. The gull was transferred to the Wildlife Center for further assessment.

On admission, the veterinary team conducted a physical exam and found patagiale knots in the bird’s right wing, resulting in muscle contractions and soft tissue damage. During the exam, the veterinary team also noticed that when the gull’s crate was moved, it would attempt to stand up on both feet – the right leg was capable of bearing a very limited amount of weight, and would significantly drag behind the left leg when the gull tried to walk.

A series of radiographs revealed a possible fracture to the right ischium (a bone in the pelvic region), which is most likely responsible for the gull’s difficulty bearing weight. The patagial knots in the right wing were clearly visible as well – veterinary staff suspect that this is a direct result of the gull struggling to free itself from the fishing line before its rescue.

"These situations are unfortunately all too common," said Dr. Natalie, the Center’s veterinary intern who examined the gull upon admission. "Discarded fishing line poses a serious threat to wildlife, not just for seabirds like this Ring-billed Gull, but also raptors and waterfowl, turtles, and even mammals that hunt or spend time near water." To learn more about what you can do to prevent wildlife injuries and deaths caused by improperly discarded fishing lines and hooks, visit the Center’s Fishing Tackle: Threats to Wildlife page.

The vet team started the gull on a course of pain medication, anti-inflammatories, and fluids; the following day, they also began physical therapy to resolve the patagial knots and help the bird regain full range of motion in its right wing. The gull will also be provided with swim therapy twice per day. If it responds well to treatment, staff plan to move the bird to an outdoor enclosure later this week.

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Patient Updates

During the past month, Ring-billed Gull #24-0197 has made a full recovery – and has been successfully returned to the wild!

On February 28, the veterinary staff determined that this gull’s condition had stabilized, and it was transitioned to an outdoor enclosure equipped with an in-ground swimming tub. At this point during its treatment, the patagial knots in its right wing had improved, and one week later the gull was able to bear weight on its right leg.

During the next month, the rehabilitation team continued to provide daily physical therapy, swimming sessions, supportive care, and nutritious meals typically consisting of a combination that included soaked dog chow, hard-boiled eggs, shrimp, crickets, smelt, and vitamin supplements.

After surgically debriding and closing the old, scabbed wound on its keel in mid-March, the veterinary staff began a second round of an intensive indoor swimming regimen with the goal of returning the gull’s waterproofing to acceptable levels – three supervised swimming sessions per day for six consecutive days – which was ultimately successful. Veterinary staff reported the gull’s feathers were 95% waterproofed on March 27, and despite minor patagial knots, it was able to fly well.

That same day, this gull was cleared for release! Wildlife Center Volunteer Transporter Paul brought the gull back to Chesterfield County near the site of its original rescue, where it was returned to the wild.