Wherever fishermen and birds overlap, sooner or later a bird gets hooked or entangled in fishing line. What happens next will determine the fate of the bird: If the fisherman cuts the line, the bird likely will die from starvation, as its capacity to forage is impaired, or dehydration, if the line becomes entangled in the trees at its roost site. Or a savvy fisherman will reel the bird in, set it free, and save its life. But to protect him or her self from the bird, which will flap long wings, squawk loudly, and snap its beak, a fisherman needs to take some basic precautions:
- Put on sunglasses or other eye protection.
- Enlist a partner to help with controlling the bird.
- Grasp the bird's head firmly and then cover the eyes with a towel, shirt, or even a hat to calm it.
- Fold the wings up and secure the feet, holding firmly.
- Cut off the hook's barb and back the hook out. This removes the hook without causing more damage to the bird.
- Check the bird for other hooks or line and remove them too. Often a bird has been hooked before.
- Put the bird on the dock, facing the water and step back. A feisty bird is likely to survive.
- If the bird is seriously injured, has swallowed the hook, or doesn't fly, it should be taken to a veterinarian or wildlife rehabilitator. Call the Wildlife Commission 1-888-404-3922 for one near you.
Congratulations! You have saved the life of a bird!