BURNABY - An endangered American white pelican is recovering from a life-threatening fish hook injury at the Wildlife Rescue Association of BC in Burnaby.

Flapping his wings inside his enclosure, the bird is trying to fly, but can’t.

"He has quite a severe infection, his wounds are quite large and he is missing a bit of tissue as well,” said Jannelle Stephenson, the wildlife hospital manager.

The bird is being referred to as a "he" right now, but those treating him are not sure of the bird's age or gender. For now, they say their top priority is to keep him alive.

"He’s very lucky to be alive," said Stephenson.

The American white pelican, which is an endangered species in British Columbia, came into the recovery centre late Saturday night. The bird was found alone on a beach in Oliver, his wing torn by a fish hook, making it impossible to fly south with the rest of his flock.

“He is on antibiotics and treatment and medication to help with that," Stephenson said. "He is also quite thin and emaciated from not being able to eat properly due to his injury."

“Fishing lines and fishing hooks do horrible damage to wildlife," she added. "They not only hook onto animals, they not only get ingested, but they entangle them, they tear their skin and in his case it hooked onto him and it tore some skin right off.”

Linda Bakker, the co-executive director of the wildlife recovery centre, said staff at the facility is "cautiously optimistic" about the bird's chances.

"We can see that his demeanor has improved," Bakker said. "He is eating on his own, which is a really good sign, and his wound has been surgically treated and is looking a lot better."

The bird is housed alone in a heated enclosure, but for an animal that is used to always having company that can be stressful. For this reason, staff at the recovery centre added a mirror to provide a little bit of comfort on the long road to recovery.

“He hangs out by the mirror a lot because he thinks it's his friend,” said Stephenson.

Staff at the Wildlife Recovery Centre are hopeful the pelican can be rehabilitated and eventually released back into the wild, but it won’t be cheap.

“It’s going to be thousands of dollars on top of our regular bills," said Bakker. "Heating for his enclosure alone adds a thousand dollars a month for us."

The centre is appealing for donations to help with the recovery effort. It hopes the injured bird can take flight next spring and find his way back to his flock.

Donations can be made online through the centre's website.