Too often, everyday items that people use every day may become a danger to wildlife. Most people know that plastic rings from a six pack can present a common risk to wildlife, especially birds. Although recent regulation require that these rings be biodegradable, it is still important to continue to cut up the rings, as animals are still at risk of injury from being caught in the rings. Other containers, such as pop cans or plastic tubs that are normally recycled can become stuck on an animal’s head or limbs. If the animal cannot get the container off, it can lead to serious injuries. The animals may suffer cuts and, in extreme cases, the container can even become fused to the animal’s skin. Also, plastic bags and balloons that have floated away do not break down and are often eaten by animals accidentally, which can cause digestive issues.
Trash along highways and major roads is also dangerous, as wild animals see the garbage as an attractive food source. Even biodegradable litter, such as apple cores or other foods that will decompose, attracts animals to dangerous roadways and can increase contact with cars and people. Discarded cigarette butts are also very attractive to animals and birds, because without the casing, they resemble fish eggs. However, the butts have high amounts of nicotine and can be toxic for animals, especially because they do not break down and cannot be digested. Invisible dangers, like pesticides, fertilizers, sewage, emissions, and other byproducts of human activity, harm the wildlife that unknowingly ingests them.
Some items that you don’t normally think of can be also be dangerous. Fishing gear and other plastic garbage left around bodies of water often injure marine wildlife. Fishing hooks may become caught in birds’ beaks or even in the necks or mouths of turtles. Fishing line, as well as string, twine, or netting, gets wrapped around birds and it becomes impossible for the bird to free itself. Even netting from soccer or basketball nets poses a risk. PWRC recently rescued a great horned owl that was trapped in a netting of a soccer goal, so anything can become a danger.
Clearly, many of these threats result from normal human activity, so it is important to be aware of potential dangers. Some ways to have a positive impact include holding parties or events without balloons or at least be sure to dispose of them properly, so they don’t blow away in, throw cigarette butts into the garbage, use reusable shopping bags; wash recyclables and store them in secure containers so that they are not attractive to hungry or inquisitive animals.
*Article originally printed in Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre newsletter.
For more information or to become a member and subscribe to the newsletter, please visit the PWRC website: http://pwildlife.ca/.