TRI-CITIES — A series of heartbreaking photos released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Monday highlights a growing problem of birds of pray being entangled in fishing line near their hunting grounds.
Fish and Wildlife workers were called July 10 to the Blue Mountain Wildlife Center near Kennewick with reports of an entangled osprey hung up in a tree near the Snake River. Fish and Wildlife employees spotted the bird, hung near its nesting place, with two baby chicks kicked out of the nest, likely by a thrashing mother.
Workers rescued the baby chicks and transported the birds to the Blue Mountain Wildlife Center in Pendleton, Ore. They also spent hours untangling the mother bird, who was emaciated and weak, before releasing it back to the wild.
“There was so much fishing netting wrapped around the osprey’s foot that it took almost 10 minutes to cut it all away,” FWS officials said. “The osprey was released, and although exhausted and dehydrated, it flew to the other side of the river and should make a full recovery.”
The mother osprey marked the fifth time in three years the FWS has rescued an osprey entangled in fishing line, netting or baling twine. Workers are unsure how many birds have gone unspotted by Good Samaritans, and subsequently died.
Ospreys are especially prone to becoming entangled because they line their nests with grasses and other materials, and pick up twine and fishing line thinking it is grass. The material makes it extremely difficult to slip free once caught, officials said.
“I don’t think people realize just how deadly these materials can be to wildlife,” said FWS’s Dan Haas. “Littering aside, I don’t understand how people can just throw this stuff out. I have to believe they don’t know about the dangers, not that they have a callous disregard for wildlife.”
A great horned owl became entangled in line in Richland and died after being caught in a tree recently.
“Who knows how many are dying without ever being discovered,” Haas said. “A little forethought would have prevented all of this. One discarded net ruined an entire nest.”
To view the slideshow of the trapped osprey and caught owl, click below.