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Left behind fishing line can be deadly for birds

Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 3:55 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s a persistent problem where people like to fish and sometimes, the consequences can be deadly. Bird Treatment and Learning Center’s Acting Director Maggie McConkey said birds die every year after getting tangled in fishing line that’s left behind.

“We have about two to five patients a year that have this, but we get hundreds of calls, I’d say throughout the summer months, of birds entangled in fishing line,” McConkey said.

“Some are able to be saved with very minimal injury and other times, unfortunately, the kindest option is to let them go,” she said.

Rescuers were unable to save a mallard who swallowed a fishing hook
Rescuers were unable to save a mallard who swallowed a fishing hook(Courtesy: Bird TLC)

Recently, someone brought a mallard duck to Bird TLC that had a line and lure dangling from its mouth. An X-ray revealed the bird had swallowed a hook that was deeply embedded in its digestive tract. McConkey said, despite their best efforts, the staff were unable to remove the hook and the bird had to be euthanized. She’s asking people to do a better job of cleaning up.

“Our message to the public is to dispose of your fishing line,” she said. “If you snag on something, go ahead and pick it up. If you are walking along the bank of a river or a lake and you see fishing line, pick it up. Help out and do your part.”

One convenient way to dispose of used line, hooks and lures is to place it in one of the designated recycling bins that are set up at more than a dozen local lakes and streams. The bins, made of white PVC pipe, can safely contain monofilament line, but, according to Anchorage Waterways Director Cherie Northon, there’s an added bonus.

“We can take all the monofilament and send it back to a place on the East Coast where they recycle it,” she said. “So it’s not only cleaning it up, it’s recycling it too.”

McCorkey said people who do spot a bird that appears to be in trouble can call Bird TLC for advice at 907-562-4852 or go to the website to learn more.

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