– Press release
At Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care and other rehabilitation facilities across the country, wild birds that are admitted suffering from fishing line and fishhook injuries are all too common. Veterinarians treat quite a few dogs with hooks embedded in their noses or feet.
Lots of people love to fish. They like being outdoors soothed by the rippling of a creek or water lapping against a shore. The air is cool, the sun warm, and bird song and chatter surrounds them. At the end of the day, if all goes well, they take fresh fish home for dinner.
For our native wild birds, all would be well, too, if fishermen leave the place free of trash and tangled fishing line and hooks. Most people who fish do just that. They carry out whatever they carry in, along with their catch. They take the time to remove snarled line and hooks caught on bushes or rocks or vegetation near or in the stream. But there people, not many, who don’t take care; they leave line looped in the trees or shrubs along the stream or clumps of line and hooks on the bank or shore.
This carelessness can mean injury or death for wildlife. Late in 2013, ESWC admitted three birds who were entangled in fishing line. An American Coot with fishing line twisted around wings, beak and feet was seen hanging upside down from a bush above the water and rescued by an 11 -year-old visitor at Twin Lakes in Mammoth. An Osprey caught up in line at Grant Lake was reported to the Forest Service; Ranger Dave Marquardt rescued the fish-catching bird of prey who was in the water, not far from shore. Two visitors fishing near Five Bridges Road spotted and rescued an immature Red-tailed Hawk, wrapped in fishing line and hung up on underbrush near the canal.
The two raptors were lucky. Both suffered minor lacerations from the line but were otherwise in good shape. In less than a week, each was fully recovered and released. The Coot did not fare so well. Hanging, as she did, from her legs, the fishing line cut off circulation to both her feet and several toes began to die. She also developed respiratory problems from being upside down for such a long period. She bravely underwent several weeks of treatment but finally succumbed and died.
Late in December, ESWC received a report of a Bald Eagle at Grant Lake with a great tangle of fishing line wrapped around and hanging from his feet. Initial rescue attempts failed because he could still fly. Darkness stopped further efforts to rescue. The next day, volunteers searched the area around the lake but could find no sign of the eagle. Our best hope is that, with his powerful and sharp beak, the eagle was able to free himself.
Birds such as ducks, cormorants, pelicans, and gulls are most often the victims of fishing line. But other birds—Great Horned Owl, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Steller Jay, Common Raven, and more—run afoul of the thin plastic line draped along creek banks and in the foliage nearby. Fishing line also winds up in some bird nests; baby birds may suffer deformities if the line wraps around a leg or wing, or end up hanging by a leg when they try to fly from their nest. ESWC is researching the possibilities of installing waste containers for line and hooks at high-use fishing areas.
Here in the Eastern Sierra we treasure the beautiful natural landscape that is our home. We want to enjoy our local lakes and ponds, river and creeks free of trash and free of the fishing line and hooks that threaten the lives of our wild neighbors. If we all work together, we can make that happen.
For further information, contact Cindy Kamler or Kelly Bahr at 760-872-1487.