MARY ESTHER, Fla. (WKRG) — Off-duty deputies Lt. Jeremy Gilbert and Lt. Matt Harrison rescued a raptor over the holiday weekend struggling to survive in Okaloosa County waters.

The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) posted a video Monday with the deputies cutting fishing lines from an Ospreys beak and talons.

The deputies said they found the bird near Mary Esther in the intercoastal waterway and brought it on board. The Osprey could not swim or fly with a fishing lure foul hooked in its talon and wrapped around its beak.

The deputies worked to cut and unwrap all the lines form the raptors beak and placed it on the side of the boat.

The Osprey took a minute to rest with the deupites and gather it’s stength before taking a low glide off the boat and soaring back off into the wild.

OCSO shared the rescue on social media to educate the public about fishing hazards and local wildlife.

Foul Hooks and Birds

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Ospreys are regularly mistaken for bald eagles and live along Florida shorelines. They are not at risk for extinction.

FWC lists steps for fishermen if they foul hook a bird.

  1. Enlist others for assistance if possible.
  2. REEL the bird in slowly and evenly.  Don’t try to shake the bird loose by jerking the line – it will inflict additional injury to the bird.
  3. If fishing from a pier, make sure that the bird remains on the water until a net, such as a hoop net, can be used to lift it onto the pier. Birds reeled up onto piers can be seriously injured, or can potentially damage fishing equipment.
  4. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.  Take extra care to protect yourself when handling long-billed wading birds and hooked-billed cormorants.
  5. Firmly grasp the bird’s head behind the eyes.  Then fold the wings up gently but firmly against the bird’s body so that it can’t flap its wings, and hold the legs. Hold firmly but don’t strangle the bird.  If it is a pelican, you can hold the beak but keep the beak slightly open so the bird can breathe. 
  6. Cover the bird’s head with a towel, hat, shirt, or other cloth. This will calm the bird and make it easier for you to remove the line and/or hook.
  7. REMOVE the hook by cutting the barb and backing the hook out.  If the barb is imbedded in the bird’s flesh, push the hook through until the barb emerges from the skin and then clip the barb.
  8. If the bird is entangled in line, use scissors, clippers or a knife to gently cut the line.  Place the cut line in a monofilament recycling bin, or cut the line into small (<3- inch pieces) and place in a lidded trashcan.
  9. Carefully check the bird over for other hooks or line and remove them too.
  10. If the bird is feisty, it is likely healthy enough to RELEASE.  Point its head towards the water and step back while you release the bird.  Let the bird take off on its own.  Sometimes birds shake their feathers out, assess the situation, and then are ready to fly.  Other times, they just take off.  Either way, this represents a successful release. 

Read the full post from OCSO below:

Saving lives even while off-duty!

Lts. Jeremy Gilbert and Matt Harrison saw an Osprey struggling in the intercoastal waterway near Mary Esther and pulled it into their boat.

It had a fishing lure connected by two hooks to its talon and face, so it couldn’t swim or fly.

After several minutes of work, Lt. Harrison held the bird and Lt. Gilbert cut it free. Tired but alive to fish another day, it flew away! A beautiful sight thanks to the rescue by these two deputies.

If you see discarded fishing lines and lures PLEASE pick them up and dispose of them properly. You can help prevent suffering and death.

Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office