Fishing hook/line injuries

We’ve had a run of bad luck lately with birds coming to SFBOWCEC with very severe injuries due to fish hook or fishing line entanglement.  Fishing gear is dangerous to birds in several ways.  First, discarded monofilament line is very durable and persists in the environment for very long periods of time.  This line can become wrapped around a leg, wing, anything and acts like a tourniquet, slowly cutting of blood and nerve supply and damaging  muscles and tendons.  If line is removed before too much damage has occurred, the bird can often be

Canada goose with monofilament fishing line wrapped around both legs; Photo by Marie Travers, IBRRC

Canada goose with monofilament fishing line wrapped around both legs; Photo by Marie Travers, IBRRC

rehabilitated.

Canada goose recovering from constriction wounds caused by fishing line entanglement; Photo by Marie Travers, IBRRC

Canada goose recovering from constriction wounds caused by fishing line entanglement; Photo by Marie Travers, IBRRC

.

Unfortunately, within the past 2 weeks, we have received a Canada goose and Brown pelican with similar wounds.  The line was removed from the goose and she did well for several days, but eventually she lost the ability to place her foot normally because the necessary tendons had been too severely damaged.  The pelican was unable to bear weight on one of his feet.  The foot was severely swollen on cold to the touch.  He had no pain perception in the injured foot, so his prognosis for normal use of the foot was grave.  Both birds had to be euthanized as a result of their fishing line injuries.

Fishing gear is also dangerous if swallowed.  A baited hook can look like a free lunch for a fish-eating bird.  Some birds are success stories.  This duck swallowed fishing hooks and other gear and was brought to SFBOWCEC after being found in distress at (ironically) a local Earth Day celebration.

Lateral radiograph of a duck with multiple pieces of fishing tackle in his esophagus and ventriculus (as well as his bum)

Lateral radiograph of a duck with multiple pieces of fishing tackle in his esophagus and ventriculus (as well as his bum)

Close-up view of the duck's stomach (ventriculus) containing many pieces of metal fishing tackle

Close-up view of the duck's stomach (ventriculus) containing many pieces of metal fishing tackle

This duck was lucky in that the pieces were relatively easily removed via a minimally invasive approach through a small incision in his esophagus with the help on an endoscope.  He has recovered completely and will soon be leaving the facility.

Another bird with a less positive outcome was a Pelagic cormorant that presented to the clinic a couple of weeks ago.

The bird was found with fishing line protruding from his mouth.  When we took radiographs, this is what we found.

Lateral radiograph of a pelagic cormorant that has swallowed two large fish hooks

Lateral radiograph of a pelagic cormorant that has swallowed two large fish hooks

These hooks were too large to remove using the procedure that was used for the duck.  The cormorant required a much more invasive procedure, a proventriculotomy.  The hooks came out relatively easily and the bird recovered well afterwards, going on the attack as any normal cormorant would.  Sadly, the bird died overnight following the procedure, likely because the bird had become too debilitated to tolerate such an invasive procedure.

So, while some very gratifying success stories come from birds with fish hook/line injuries, the failures are made even worse by the fact that they are completely preventable.  Taking responsibility for one’s own actions and thinking about the potential ramifications of even the smallest acts of negligence can prevent these horrible injuries.  If anyone you know enjoys fishing, please make sure he/she knows of the importance of properly disposing of and collecting all fishing gear.

Thanks,

Shannon

For more information on the detrimental effects that derelict fishing gear can have on wildlife, visit the following link: http://www.seadocsociety.org/taxonomy/term/148

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