Everyone loves a good fishing tale, but unfortunately, there are bad fishing tales as well. Many marine animals such as sea turtles are injured or killed when they either ingest or are tangled in fishing line. As bird watchers, we often encounter birds that are missing toes or even entire legs as a result of being tangled in monofilament. Shown below are two of the many birds we have seen that have been injured by careless fishing line disposal; a Willet with the hook still in him, and a Ruddy Turnstone who lost his entire foot!
What should you do if you see a bird tangled in fishing line? Unless you have had training, do not attempt to untangle the bird yourself. Birds. especially large birds like those in the heron family, do not understand the concept of “I’m trying to help you.” They can and will try to defend themselves, and what they do understand is that your eyes are soft and their beaks are pointy! Instead, call your local wildlife hospital or Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and let them know the location of the bird.
What can you do to help? It’s easy – never leave monofilament behind when you are fishing. There are recycling tubes at many popular fishing areas. If you don’t see a tube, just take it home and dispose of the line properly. If you see fishing line, please pick it up, even if it’s not yours. And, if you really want to help, you can make a monofilament recycling tube. There are instructions on line for how to easily make one. The birds and marine life will thank you!
Dee Fairbanks Simpson is a writer and Florida Master Naturalist. You can follow her adventures on her web site http://www.deefairbanks.net. She also assists her husband David Simpson in his bird guiding and consulting business, http://www.BirdingwithDavidSimpson.com.