Wildlife and fishing line: A deadly combination

– 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.


18 Responses to Wildlife and fishing line: A deadly combination

  1. Philip Anaya January 28, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

    Anyone going to join me sending a few $ to the Fishing Line Fund ? There was a Bald Eagle yesterday perched on a power pole on Schober Lane. Thanks Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care for being there for all the distressed and wounded creatures

    Here’s an address to support their work: ESWC PO Box 368 Bishop Ca 93515

  2. Wayne Deja January 28, 2014 at 5:29 pm #

    Back in 2003 I was fishing at Lee Vining Creek in the Big Bend Campground and noticed a bluebird hanging up-side down attached to tangled fishing line over the creek…apparently after some salmon eggs or power bait left on the hook….campers were around trying to reach him,but too far over the creek and too high up….I finally went to the camp host and asked if I could cut down a long,skinny cottonwood tree and try to launch it at the bird hoping it would free him….one chance to do it…..and it worked !!!!!!…was kinda neet,when the bird flew off it kinda chirped,almost like saying thank you…. made my day….

  3. Mr. NRA January 28, 2014 at 5:58 pm #

    Well better add that to the future list of banned activates in California.

    • Wayne Deja January 28, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

      ….Don’t really think anyone is trying to “ban” people from fishing….I think this story is more to make people aware of the damage that can be done to wildlife and the environment for those that choose to be pigs with their littering while along the creeks,rivers and lakes….next thing we’ll hear is some angry guy saying” You can have my fishing rod and reel when you pry it from my dead,bloody hands”……

    • Trouble January 29, 2014 at 8:04 am #

      Mr. NRA, I believe Cal Trout is the organization we need to watch closely in the valley. They have taken over Fish and Game ( now Fish and Wildlife) and are stuck on having all native fish and native fishing. Owens valley has no native trout.

    • Desert Tortoise January 29, 2014 at 8:30 am #

      Amazing, isn’t it, that an article describing the harm to wild life inattention on our part can create elicits the above reaction. Consideration for others, including other creatures, responsibility for one’s actions and some knowledge of how our actions or inactions may affect others? Geez, can’t have that.

  4. chris January 28, 2014 at 6:49 pm #

    Great article. Thank you for printing. As flyfishers, my husband and I see a lot of lines, hooks bobbers, etc. on local streams. We catch and release, but always go home with more than we arrive with – discarded fishing paraphenalia. Thanks for spreading the word about these hazards.

  5. Norman Olson January 28, 2014 at 6:51 pm #

    Good article. Positive tone to promote good action and responsibility.

  6. Desco January 28, 2014 at 7:26 pm #

    Sportsmen in general and fishermen in particular are slobs. Fishing line, beer cans tossed back in the brush where “no one can see them”, broken lawn chairs, Styrofoam bait containers and once all the packaging including the k-mart bag it came in for a newly purchased fishing outfit.
    I am a fisherman. I used to carry a bag to clean up all the trash I found at North Lake.
    No more. If people want to live like pigs, an insult to pigs by the way, I will not deny them that right.

    • Tom O January 29, 2014 at 11:23 am #

      Wow, thanks for completely showing how out of touch you are.Like most things, you cannot judge and show ignorance based on the few slobs that made an impression on you.I personally walk Rush Creek every fall for cleanup and my wife and I organize the cleanup day every May here in June Lake. Rather than generalize and sound foolish,,why don’t you join us next May?

      • Trouble January 29, 2014 at 8:56 pm #

        Tom O, i admire your effort and wish I did the same. Ken, at least you tried.

    • Ken Warner January 29, 2014 at 11:58 am #

      I know what you are talking about. I used to clean up the creek behind my house. Seemed like the more trash I picked up, the more trash appeared. I eventually gave up — sadly. Most people just don’t care.

  7. Rick O'Brien January 29, 2014 at 3:12 am #

    When me and my guys leave our camp up on the East fork of the Walker, where we camp for a week every summer, we pick up EVERY speck of trash when we get there, and every speck when we leave.( I even make the 2 smokers in the group police their butts). All of us catch and release also, but the pockets in our vests are always full (of other peoples trash) when we get back to camp every afternoon. Sad. It was even SADDER when the brush along the river was burned a few years back, and it revealed HUNDREDS and HUNDREDS of cans and bottles, so many that we had to give up on the clean-up attempt. REAL sad.

    • Desert Tortoise January 29, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

      The conscientious outdoors enthusiast seems to be the exception. Talk to some rangers over breakfast some time and they will tell you how heart sick they are at the way people come up from big cities and trash the wild lands, fight, play music loud, abandon cars, burn these abandoned cars, leave mountains of trash behind, carv initials and gang logos into everything and generally treat the forests like a back alley in LA. Look at the bushes lining any major freeway in the state and you see exactly the same sort of debris field one finds in the bushes behind any good fishing creek. Same trash from some of the same people. It is sad, but true.

  8. Roy January 29, 2014 at 3:01 pm #

    I spend almost 3 months a year fishing the area and every trip I pick up all the trash and cans I see… Last May I was fishing the Lower Owens and found what must have been a party site, there must have been 300-400 empty beer cans scattered about…. I picked up every can and brought them home to recycle.. One of the worst trash places I see is the river area by Hwy 6, before I leave fishing I take my trash bag and pick up every piece of trash I see. As someone that has fished the Owens Valley for over 50 years I don’t appreciate coming to your beautiful area and seeing trash, cans, fishing line strewn about because some dirtbag is too lazy to pack his trash or beer cans out..

  9. enoughalready January 29, 2014 at 6:10 pm #

    I would like to see local businesses and clubs start an Adopt a Lake program (or stretch of Creek or River). Like they have the Adopt a Highway program. The participants can advertise the store or club name on posted signs. They could educate the anglers about the impact the trash has on wildlife and possibly educate the public on proper outdoor etiquette. Weekly pick up campainges would make a big difference.

  10. Roy January 29, 2014 at 7:57 pm #

    In my opinion considering the decades I have fished the Eastern Sierras, the worst slob fishermen are those that may only come up to the area maybe once or twice a year, and usually with a large group…To them its a few days to drink all day and night, raise some hell and not give a darn on how they leave the area… Last October I was fishing the river and saw a large group (15-20) of what I consider undesirable types. They were all drinking their Budweiser beers and cans were strewn all over the area they were parked at.. I thought to myself, every beer can will be on the ground when they leave, and I was right… When I drove past the area I saw about 75 beer cans on the ground…. I stopped, picked up every can and other trash they left….Those type of people need to stay where they live, they are not wanted in the areas I fish..

  11. Steve Dickinson January 31, 2014 at 7:24 pm #

    This may be taken as old-fashioned or naïve, but has anyone tried simple signage in affected areas alerting the public as to the hazards of discarded fishing line? (When the signs get knocked down or otherwise vandalized, they could be replaced).

    New and ignorant fishermen show up every day with their young and impressionable kids. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re evil, perhaps just un-evolved and uninformed.

    Should kids get bored from fishing they might get into a “save-the-wildlife” mode by policing for fishing line, etc., while “Dad” is focused on landing the big ones. They might even talk to each other about the signs they read.


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