Trash from fishing ensnares birds

Discovering a goose tangled in fishing line seems to happen often for Ken Lockwood these days. Lockwood, the director of the Eagle Valley Raptor Center near Cheney, spends his time rescuing orphaned or injured birds of prey such as eagles, hawks and owls.

"I don't do ducks and geese," Lockwood said. "But (after rescuing one), one guy was so grateful, I thought he was going to cry. People are very passionate about animals."

Ducks and geese are getting caught in fishing line, or plastic six-pack pop holders, according to Lockwood.

"It's not about saving a goose because we know we have about 5 billion of them around here," he said. "But what I would really like people to look at is the bigger picture. I want to encourage people that fish to try to be more observant and try to pick up their hooks and lines. It's really affecting the wildlife."

Lockwood has seen minor to major injuries due to the fishing line.

"When they get it hooked on both legs, they are constantly pulling against each other," he said. "It cuts tighter and tighter."

He said he has even discovered some animals that have self-amputated their legs.

A duck that was rescued a couple of weeks ago had an operation on Dec. 7.

"It took us an hour to get the wire off this poor animal," he said. "We had to cut through the growths on its legs to get to it. Now it looks like she has little pink leggings where her casts are."

With the help of area businesses, Lockwood said, he hopes the city of Wichita will approve his idea to help reduce trash around rivers and streams.

Lockwood wants to attach PVC trash receptacles to wooden posts near creeks and rivers.

"When people do have lines and hooks they want to get rid of, they can put them in these tubes," he said.

Bob Gress, director of the Great Plains Nature Center, said he is researching the devices.

"It wouldn't hurt anything to put them up," Gress said. "It's easy to put them up, but it's difficult to get the fishermen to walk over there and put their line in it."

Gress said the problem of birds getting caught in fishing line has been around for years.

"I just don't know if there is an easy fix," he said. "The challenge is to make fishermen responsible for their trash, and we haven't figured out how to do that for many, many years."

Gress said that trash receptacles are already in place in the areas that Lockwood would like to place his devices.

Charlie Cope, district biologist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, said he only gets a few complaints a year about birds being entangled in fishing line — not many considering that Wichita is the winter home to 25,000 to 40,000 geese.

The department doesn't try to catch birds that have been entangled.

"If the bird can fly, it can survive. If it can fly, we couldn't catch it to do anything about it anyway," Cope said. "The biggest concern is cutting off circulation to something, like a foot."