A Coastal Star: Injured seabirds have a friend in ‘pelican man’

By Tim O’Meilia

His business is called “Kenny Brown’s Trapping and Wildlife Rescue.” His truck says, “Pelican and Wildlife Rescue and Release.”

The kids call him “Noah.” Or “Dr. Doolittle.” Some call him “the pelican man.” Fishermen often call him something

“I’m usually everyone’s last resort,” said Kenny Brown, 47, carpenter by trade, wildlife rescuer by passion.

Take the day last month when Joe and Debby MacInnis were strolling along the beach near their Gulf Stream condominium when they spotted a large sea bird in trouble, unable to fly.

MacInnis hustled back to the Gulf Stream Bath and Tennis Club. Someone found Kenny’s business card tacked to a bulletin board.

“I’m standing near the bird so no one will bother it and here comes this guy up the beach. He’s not walking, he’s running,” MacInnis explained.

Carrying a towel and a net, Brown soothed the bird, wrapped it with the towel so it wouldn’t injure itself flapping its wings and examined its injuries. Brown reckoned the bird swallowed some fish hooks and could no longer eat.

Brown identified it as a northern gannet, a migratory white bird with black wingtips and a nearly 6-foot wingspan. Later he drove it to the SPCA Wildlife Center in Fort Lauderdale for care.

“He knew exactly what he was doing. I was so impressed with his enthusiasm,” said MacInnis, a man not easily impressed. MacInnis is a Toronto physician and undersea explorer who hangs out with the likes of Titanic and Avatar
director James Cameron.

Truth be told, Brown learned about wildlife by doing: a self-made animal expert who has devoted most of the last five years to saving distressed wildlife throughout Palm Beach County.

In late mid-April, Matthew Kelley’s dog, Sadie, alerted on a brown pelican along the Flagler Drive shore, north of Good Samaritan Hospital in West Palm Beach.

“It was wrapped in fishing line and had a hook in its beak,” he said. Kelley called the mayor’s office, which referred him to Palm Beach County Animal Care and
Control, which referred him to — Kenny Brown.

“Like I said, I’m the last resort for something no one else wants to do,” he said.

It all began in 2005 at the Boynton Inlet, where he saw a pelican entwined in fishing net, ignored by nearby fishermen. He drove to Kmart, bought a cheap net, returned to the inlet and scooped up the bird. He rescued three others the same night.

“I guess the man upstairs wants me to do this,” he concluded.

Since then, he’s rescued turkey vultures in Palm Beach, a great horned owl in Riviera Beach, 150 turtles from an area scheduled to be paved over in western Palm Beach County. Brown has saved gators, ospreys, raccoons, ducks, chickens and, of course, hundreds of pelicans.

Wildlife hospitals have logged in hundreds of animals per year brought in by Brown.

“If I get a call, I drop everything and go. I go,” he said.

Two years ago, he tended an injured bald eagle near Lion Country Safari. Until two years ago, Brown drove the injured to the Folke Peterson Wildlife Center in Wellington, but it has since closed. Now he drives wounded animals to the SPCA Wildlife Care Center in Fort Lauderdale.

It’s a tough way to make a living. His no-kill trapping business, in which he removes raccoons from your garbage cans or alligators from your retention pond,
is not as healthy as he would like.

And few pay to rescue damaged sea birds (except the MacInnises). After all, who owns them? A nonprofit website a friend set up, irescuewildlife.org, has attracted few donations.

“I’m just thankful people call about injured animals,” Brown said. “I’m over worrying about trying to get money for it.”

Brown’s wildlife rescue service and his for-profit no-kill animal trapping business can be reached at (561) 628-5363.

“He’s got a big heart,” MacInnis said. “He’s one of those guys on the side of the angels.”

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