By Bruce Burdett
TIVERTON — A fishhook lodged in its wing and possibly unable to fly, a cormorant did the logical thing Saturday afternoon. It set out in search of help.
Perhaps from Nonquit Pond, at a half mile away the closest big body of water, the cormorant headed inland on a route that might have taken it past Four Corners, past Gray’s Ice Cream.
Brian Eliason and son Dryden were bicycling when they saw something that made them stop — a cormorant walking near Tiverton’s South Fire Station at 287 East Road.
Mr. Eliason pulled out his camera.
“I said to my son, ‘There is a cormorant next to the ballfield,'” Mr. Eliason said later. He’s watched cormorants countless times out on the water, but “this is something I have never seen in my life … Cormorants are very wary wild birds that rarely leave the water.”
Firefighters Bill Barrett and Trevor Sheehan were working inside the station and had opened the garage bay doors to let in the fresh air when one of them “saw a cormorant starting to walk right in,” Capt. Bruce Reimels said. (He wasn’t on duty at the time but learned about it later.)
Worried that the apparently confused bird might get stuck inside the garage with the fire engines, they encouraged it back outside.
Not to be deterred, the cormorant walked around to a side door and climbed the steps. That’s where Mr. Eliason snapped a picture of the cormorant waiting just as the firefighters opened the door.
They are EMTs (emergency medical technicians), but that training doesn’t cover cormorants. So just after 4 p.m. the crew called the state Department of Environmental Management which dispatched officer Jean-Paul Forcier.
“The bird was still there when he arrived and they (firefighters and DEM officer) caught it” to find out what was wrong, Capt. Reimels said.
In one of the cormorant’s wings, the officer discovered a fish hook.
With the firefighters’ help, officer Forcier unwrapped the tangle of leader and line from the bird’s wing, cut the barb off the hook, and eased the hook out.
Damage seemed slight, he said, and the bird ought to make a full recovery. He thanked the firefighters for their help, packed the bird into his car and drove it to the shore.
A DEM spokeswoman said records show that the cormorant was released back to the wild that afternoon. Happy ending, she added, for one smart little guy.