Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach, where the pelican stayed
while recovering from the apparent attack.
Veterinarian Heather Nevill, who volunteered to care for Hope
during multiple surgeries, let the pelican out of her gray plastic
carrier. After the door opened, Hope waddled out, and stopped. The
bird seemed to be puzzled as she turned her head to see the line of
news photographers who had congregated on the sand to document her
Almost completely surrounded by journalists and curious children
who watched with their parents, Hope stood placidly while voices in
the crowd called for those assembled around her to step back. One
woman tried to encourage Hope to fly by approaching the bird from
behind and clapping, but the pelican simply waddled into the wet
sand, her webbed feet leaving an impression.
For a few more moments, Hope remained quiet, gazing at the crowd.
Then without warning, she unfurled her wings and took off above the
waves. She skimmed the surface of the ocean as she headed to the
"That was wonderful," Nevill said. "What was best is she flew so
far before she landed again. The fact that she flew so far is such a
McGuire cried tears of joy after Hope took flight.
"We weren't sure she was going to make it when she first got here,
and now she's out," McGuire said.
Hope's road to Little Corona was not an easy one. She was found
suffering from a slashed pouch in Huntington Beach in mid-April. Her
pouch was almost completely cut away from her beak, and those who
cared for the pelican believe someone intentionally injured the bird.
"With this type of injury it is hard to make up a story how she
could have done it to herself," Nevill said. Before Wednesday's
flight, Nevill was part of the team of volunteers who performed
California brown pelicans are endangered, and if she was attacked,
the penalty could be stiff. Animal cruelty is a felony under state
law, and hurting an endangered species is a federal crime. A guilty
party could face one year behind bars and a hefty $100,000 fine.