Stuck gull lives to eat garbage again, thanks to Stephenville man

A seagull in Stephenville, N.L., is back in the air thanks to a quick-thinking rescue by a local man.

On Wednesday, Ian Stokes found himself with time on his hands thanks to rough weather.

"Wednesday was a pretty squirrelly day in Stephenville, and all the schools were closed," Stokes, who works at Keyin College, told CBC's Newfoundland Morning.

He and a friend went for a drive to take some photos of the ocean. When they were near the airport, Stokes noticed something strange in a chain-link fence.

At first he thought what he saw was a fake bird, but then he looked again.

"We were parked next to it and then I said, 'Craig, I think its head just moved,'" Stokes said. 

"And Craig said, 'Don't tell me that. Don't tell me it's alive.'"

He realized that the seagull was very much real — and very much stuck.

'I couldn't see it suffering'

Stokes grabbed a pair of gloves and hopped out of the vehicle to try to help the bird.

"I couldn't see it suffering. That's just not how I was brought up," he said.

When he got closer he realized that the bird's wings and feet were on his side of the fence, and its entire body and head were through the other side.

Provided by Ian Stokes

He tried to gently pull the bird loose, standing out in winds that the airport said were at 118 km/h. An airport employee came out to try to help, he said, but the bird began to pick at her.

Then another airport employee joined the effort, armed with longer gloves.

"When he tried to grab the bird — I don't know how this happened, but it got through the fence."

The seagull was free, but everyone involved in the effort suspected it might not live for long. The second airport staffer put the bird in his truck to take it inside and try to have a look at it.

'When it got back to the shop it flew away," Stokes said.

Props from 'bird royalty'

A short video taken of the bird between when Stokes tried to free it, and when the second airport employee came, went online and has been shared tens of thousands of times. 

The response is surprising, he said.

"I think bird royalty commented on it, Bill Montevecchi," Stokes said, adding that the Memorial University bird researcher said it was a good save.

Having saved the gull from what was likely to be a slow and painful death stuck to the fence in windy conditions, Stokes is happy to have done his "good deed for the day" — and he hopes the seagull spreads the word of his generosity.

"Lived to pick at my garbage another day," he said.

"Maybe he'll tell his buds to stay away from my house."

With files from Newfoundland Morning

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador