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Discarded Fishing Tackle Can Cause Death For Wildlife

X-ray shows the four hooks and a sinker inside the bird. Taken by Dr. Jeff Fish at the Animal Medical Center.

X-ray shows the four hooks and a sinker inside the bird. Taken by Dr. Jeff Fish at the Animal Medical Center.

By: Kris Hazelton

The banks of Lake Estes are often full of  people fishing, men, women and children  enjoying a day chatting and fishing, bonding at the lake, laughing, sharing stories and creating special memories.
But, there can be an ugly side to this picturesque image. Shore birds are being hooked and snared in fishing lines left by fishermen, sometimes inadvertently, yet sometimes carelessly discarded on the ground or in the water.

Either way, some of these birds that become entangled are so severely injured that they don’t survive, even after being rescued.

This week, local licensed bird rehabilitator and expert Scott Rashid was called to aid a cormorant from Lake Estes that had been observed with a large amount of fishing line wrapped around its wing. This is a potentially lethal situation, and in most cases the bird cannot be caught until it is too ill or weak to fly any more.

According to Rashid, the bird was unable to fly and was relatively “easy” to catch due to his unfortunate circumstances.

The lines were very tangled on the bird’s wings which prevented it from fishing or flying. Sadly, after capture, Scott noticed that the fishing line was not only wrapped around the poor bird’s wings, he saw the line originated from the birds mouth.

Upon closer inspection, Scott could see that the fishing line had done considerable amounts of damage and had cut the bird’s mouth and that this wasn’t going to be an easy rescue. Medical help was needed.
Scott took the bird to Dr. Jeff Fish at the Animal Medical Center for a complete examination and after seeing the fishing line in the bird’s mouth and down the bird’s throat, the two agreed an x-ray was in order.
After getting the x-rays back, there was sad news to report. The x-ray showed the bird had no less than four fishing hooks lodged in its throat and abdomen, it also had a lead sinker in its belly.

Think of the pain the bird had been going through, not only with its wings bound and restricted, but also, to have fishing line strung down its throat and every time he moved, he undoubtedly was going through extreme pain due to the fish hooks lodged in his stomach. The bird was unable to fly or fish, and was literally starving to death, bound by fishing lines and hooks left carelessly by someone who didn’t realize that by leaving their fishing gear, were deciding the fate of this bird’s life.

Cormorants are a large family of fisheaters residing along freshwater and saltwater shores around the world. They are found almost everywhere that water meets shore but they aren’t the only water birds we have here. We have hundreds of different species of birds. Actually, Estes Park is a habitat that supports large numbers of native and migratory bird species and year ‘round any number of birds can be found around our local waterways. Any one of these beautiful birds, or water creatures, can become entangled in lines and find their demise at our carelessness.

Sadly, the bird Scott was able to capture, had to be euthanized due to the extreme emaciation of his body. To try to perform surgery on it to remove the hooks would have proven much too risky for a bird in such ill health. It is a sad tale to tell, but hopefully, with the news of this story, other birds may be saved from the same horrible fate.

Anyone fishing near the lakes, rivers or ponds need to be responsible and make sure not to leave any fishing gear behind.

If you happen to be walking near the water and see a hook or a ball of fishing line, please, take a moment and pick it up and discard it in the nearest waste receptacle.

This lost gear does not decompose in water and can remain in the environment for years. We are the humans in this world and we are inevitably responsible for the condition of our planet and the wildlife we are lucky enough to share it with. Lets all work together to keep our waterways safe for all.

© 2014 Estes Park News, Inc

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