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A 'slow, painful death': Group wants fishermen to be mindful of 'hooking' pelicans

Friends of Pelicans says it plans to meet with Florida State Parks and find a solution to help both fishermen and pelicans.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — Animal advocates hoping to save brown pelicans in Tampa Bay are spreading the word on how they can be caught up in fishermen's hooks -- and what people can do to help save them before it's too late.

"It just breaks my heart, I’ve gone home many nights and cried," Kim Begay said.

She says pelicans are being accidentally hooked and tangled by fishermen -- and then dying.

"It’s a very torturous, slow, painful death," she said. "It’s heartbreaking when you go out in a kayak and you just see hanging pelicans."

Begay is vice-chair of the group Friends of Pelicans and says it is trying to educate fishermen on what to do if they end up "hooking" one of the birds.

"We want everyone to know, if you hook a bird, don’t let the bird fly off with a lot of line trailing between you and the bird, try to reel the bird very gently in," she said.

She says after that, remove the hook and untangle the line.

The group is also looking for "mangrove monitors" to volunteer to look for these tangled up birds. 

Members are even asking Florida State Parks to take action. This week, the group is planning to meet with the park's manager of the Skyway Fishing Pier to make a request.

"We want the Florida State Park system at the South Skyway Fishing Pier to acknowledge the problem and fund a rescuer to be there every day in a golf cart going up and down and be there to help people," she said.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation says they don't maintain statistics on seabird entanglements, but sent 10News the following information: 

"DON’T CUT THE LINE. REEL. REMOVE. RELEASE. Saving birds hooked or entangled in fishing line. Seabird Rehabilitators and Transporters interactive webpage. For more information, please visit http://myfwc.com/unhook. We urge the public to report sick or injured wildlife and wildlife violations to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922. Callers reporting wildlife violations may remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward."

10News has reached out to Florida State Parks and will update this story when we hear back.

RELATED: Brown pelican named official bird of St. Pete—finally

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