Jackson County

Shoe-stealing pelican has expensive taste in footwear, Gulf Coast woman says

Christopher Eyermann uses Dena McKee’s remaining shoe to lure the pelican.
Christopher Eyermann uses Dena McKee’s remaining shoe to lure the pelican. Dena McKee

This is a story of an artist and a pelican.

Dena McKee received a call about a pelican with a hook and a lure under his wing on Saturday and drove to the west end of Dauphin Island to help.

She is on the island police department’s call list for bird rescue, along with her husband, a longtime birder.

Dena had eye surgery so she knew she couldn’t pick up the bird, but went to assist Linda and Christopher Eyermann, who had spotted the bird under a house.

“I’ll walk you through it,” she said.

She told them they needed a cardboard box and not the kennel they were considering. The box is easier to get him in and would be less likely to break a wing trying to get him out.

She stopped at The Sandbox gift shop for a box.

“Everyone helps everyone here on the island,” she said, and headed out down a street that is still blocked by sand piled high by Hurricane Nate last month.

She was wearing her favorite shoes — a European comfort brand she paid a pretty penny for.

To avoid getting them wet, she took them off at the end of the driveway and walked to the beach in her socks.

“No sooner than I did, the Pelican ran over, grabbed a shoe and flew out to sea circling with it in his beak before dropping it in the Gulf!” she wrote on Facebook.

“He then returned for the other shoe.”

“Because of his obsession with my shoes, the others used the surviving shoe as bait.

“I drove home wearing one shoe! I couldn’t make this up if I tried!”

She told the Sun Herald the shoe he took was about the size of a fish and somewhat the same color.

It had an embroidered front and greenish leather. It was her favorite pair.

She watched helplessly as the bird carried it in its beak sideways, and then let it go over water.

“I guess he realized it wasn’t a fish.”

When he came back for the other shoe, she said, “I grabbed it and said, ‘Get away. Get away.’”

Then she remembered why she was there. And offered the other one.

“He loved that shoe,” Linda Eyermann said. “He was fascinated. He wanted that other one so bad, and he was so fast.”

They used it to lure the pelican toward safety, but it didn’t work. The rescue eventually failed and the pelican left.

McKee stopped at several stores on the island on her way home, wearing only one shoe.

She told customers: “Yes, I don’t have a shoe on. A pelican took it.”

“That’s the great thing about island life,” she said. “Nobody cares how you dress. I’ve gone to the Post Office in my pajamas and fuzzy slippers and no one noticed.”

But when she went back to the west end of the island to see if her shoe might have washed up, it was the police she had to convince.

They have a road block because traveling the area is dangerous with the mountains of sand on either side of the road.

He let me in, she said, but not before he expressed his skepticism: “He said, ‘Yeah, a pelican took your shoe.’”