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No Rescue is Too Small for First Responders

Tampa Bay Tribune via YellowBrix

June 18, 2010

OKALOOSA ISLAND – Lt. Sean Mast with the Okaloosa Island Fire Department has seen a lot as a firefighter, but Thursday morning’s rescue was far from the typical calls he receives.

Mast, along with Firefighter Michael Russ, climbed 30 feet up the fire truck’s ladder around 8:30 a.m. to release an osprey tangled in fishing line from its nest near the Emerald Coast Conference Center. Earlier, a citizen spotted the large bird hanging by its leg from the nest.

“This was a first time for a bird rescue,” Mast said. “I’ve had one cat call in the past – this was completely different.

“I’ve seen the birds flying in the air a lot, but up close it was pretty intimidating. They are very large birds with very big talons.”

The bird was later released around 1:30 p.m. Thursday by Mast and Russ near where it was rescued.

Patrick Gault with the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge said the bird most likely picked up fishing line while making its nest and got tangled as the nest was being built.

“This is why people need to dispose of fishing line,” Gault said.

The bird was cut loose and brought down after being put in a net. It was taken to Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge for an examination after the rescue.

“It has a cut, but seems to be in good shape aside from that,” said Gault. “We’ll probably pump him up with fluids and give him some vitamins and nutrients then release it.”

Ospreys typically hover over the water and plunge feet first when they spot their prey, Gault said. He said the bird will typically not eat unless it catches its own food. That increased the urgency to release the bird quickly.

“He wasn’t injured very badly,” Gault said of the quick release. “He was in really good shape, because (the cut) was so fresh there was no infection or anything. They just gave it some stitches and antibiotics for safety.”

When Mast and Russ were asked to release the bird back into the wild, Gault said there was no hesitation.

“They were like, ‘Yes, sir!’ Gault said. “They were definitely excited. I’m glad they could join us, it was an awesome rescue.”