Anhinga found hanging from tree, wrapped in fishing line

By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

An anhinga was among the 110 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida this past week. Other admissions include two pileated woodpeckers, a Carolina wren, a great horned owl, a Brazilian free-tailed bat, a Virginia opossum and a gopher tortoise.

Hospital staff received a phone call from a couple in Port Royal regarding an anhinga seen hanging by fishing line from a tree over the water on Lantern Lake. There was no way the people could reach the struggling bird so they called the hospital for assistance.

Hospital staff called Ted Borduas, friend and supporter of the wildlife hospital, and arranged to meet him and his two daughters, Alexis and Kaitlyn, at the location with their paddleboard. Many issues can arise in difficult rescue situations so having extra hands available to assist was much appreciated. Hospital staff gathered a pole saw, and other rescue equipment needed for a water rescue and headed to the scene.

The Borduas’ arrived on scene first and advised staff that the anhinga was no longer moving; they feared the bird was already dead. Experience has shown that birds hanging from line can be quite still due to exhaustion from struggling so, although the bird was no longer moving, staff felt it was best to try to retrieve the anhinga from the tree just to be sure.

Wildlife staff member Lauren Barkley and Alexis maneuvered the paddleboard under the tree. From their vantage point on the water, they could clearly see the anhinga had died. Even though the anhinga was deceased, the rescue team did not want to leave him hanging from the tree. Alexis maneuvered the paddleboard so Lauren could reach up and cut the line with the pole saw.

A close look at the anhinga back at the wildlife hospital revealed he had been entangled in a significant amount of fishing line. The line was wrapped around the anhinga’s wings, body, and neck. Basically, the line wrapped around his neck strangled him as he hung from the tree.

Sadly, this wasn’t the first time staff had been called to this lake to help an anhinga hanging from a tree. Two years prior, staff rescued an anhinga hanging by its beak after becoming entangled in rope.

While it is unknown how this anhinga became so entangled in fishing line, this death was preventable. Please, if you are an angler, practice responsible fishing practices. Place used and unwanted fishing tackle in appropriate trash receptacles. If you miscast and your line becomes entangled in surrounding vegetation, do not leave it behind. Always retrieve any monofilament debris so it is not left in the environment where it can entangle, injure and/or kill native wildlife. No animal should die in such a horrific manner.

Recent Releases

Six eastern cottontails, a blue jay, two striped mud turtles, two mottled ducks, a peninsula cooter, six northern mockingbirds, a royal tern, a red-bellied woodpecker, two Florida red-bellied turtles, three fish crows, a pileated woodpecker, a red-shouldered hawk, two killdeer, a Florida soft-shell turtle and an eastern screech owl were released this past week.

Opportunities to Help

Support the Conservancy’s mission to protect native wildlife. The von Arx Wildlife Hospital hosted a virtual Wildlife Hospital Baby Shower on June 6 raising awareness and support for the hospital’s youngest patients. Hospital staff is incredibly grateful to everyone who has already donated items in support of our work. Baby Shower Gifts can be donated online through the Conservancy’s Amazon Wish List through the month of June. Visit www.conservancy.org/babyshower. Every donation supports the Conservancy’s work to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.

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Conservancy of SWFL

Conservancy of SWFL

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Protecting Southwest Florida's unique natural environment and quality of life...now and forever.