Great blue heron found wrapped in fishing line

By Joanna Fitzgerald | Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital

A great blue heron and a raccoon were among the 54 animals admitted to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital this past week. Other admissions include a peregrine falcon, a bald eagle and a marsh rabbit.

The great blue heron arrived at the Wildlife Hospital completely incapacitated due to being wrapped in fishing line and hooks. The heron’s legs were bound tightly in monofilament line and although the fish hook was hanging loose on the line, the heron had a wound where the hook had punctured its leg. The heron also had a length of monofilament line that had pierced through the soft tissue on one wing.

The prognosis for the heron’s recovery is extremely guarded at this point. There is significant pressure necrosis over the leg muscle and tendon due to the line cutting off circulation.

Treatment for the injury is very involved.

Hospital staff is using low energy laser therapy to control infection, reduce inflammation and promote healing. Leg bandages are being changed twice a day and physical therapy is vital because the heron is either unwilling or unable to stretch its legs.

The heron is not alone in its struggle with injuries caused by fishing line and hooks. A royal tern, a laughing gull and a brown pelican were also admitted with severe injuries resulting from hooks and line.

If you participate in angling activities, always place unwanted fishing tackle in appropriate trash receptacles. If you miscast and your line gets tangled in surrounding rocks, trees and vegetation, be responsible and retrieve the monofilament debris. Hooks and line can be deadly to unsuspecting wildlife if left in the environment.

Also, take precautions to avoid injuring nearby birds. Check to ensure no birds are flying by when you cast your line; never leave baited hooks and line unattended.

If you accidentally hook a bird, stay calm and don’t cut the line. Slowly reel the bird in and cover its head and body with a towel to help keep it calm and make it easier to handle. Carefully push the hook through to expose the barb. Cut the barb and gently back the now barbless hook out. If the hook is deeply embedded in the bird please call the wildlife hospital for assistance.

We’ve produced this video that offers step-by-step instructions on to ensure anglers on the pier know the proper way to remove a hook from an animal.

Recent Releases — 12 Wild Animals Go Home

  • 1 red-shouldered hawk
  • 2 double-crested cormorants
  • 1 royal tern
  • 2 Virginia opossums
  • 1 marsh rabbit
  • 3 grey squirrels
  • 1 broad-winged hawk
  • 1 peninsula cooter

Year in Review

The von Arx Wildlife hospital was only 9 patients shy from admitting 3,600 native animals in 2015. That is a staggering number of sick, injured and orphaned wild animals requiring professional care in our community. We thank everyone who made a difference for so many animals in need by supporting our work.

Opportunities to Help

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Volunteers are vital in our efforts to assist native wildlife.

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