Today I visited the Eastern Shore Birding and Wildlife Festival at Kiptopeke State Park. While looking for birds on the beach near the park’s boat launch, my group encountered an adult Great Black-backed Gull whose legs and wings were bound with discarded fishing line. The bird was laying lethargically on the beach in the sun, unable to do more than stand and sit, its eyes closed. It was so tangled that another club member and myself were easily able to walk up to and restrain the bird, removing over two feet of fishing line from its body. When we released the bird, it still had a heavy limp and was unable to fly, instead swimming away with its newly-freed feet.
The fact that this gull was next to a fishing pier was no coincidence. The Chesapeake Bay is home to hundreds of thousands of vulnerable waterbirds, many thousands of which die each year from improperly discarded fishing line.
If you know any anglers, or ever fish yourself, make sure to clean up your fishing line! And even if you don’t fish, if you see a hook or some line next time you are near the water, think of the wildlife and properly dispose of it.
Note: I don’t recommend trying to help wildlife yourself in these scenarios. The gull used the only defense it had against me, biting me hard on the arm (though luckily not drawing blood). What we should have done was call a ranger who could have taken the immobilized bird to a rehabber while it was unable to swim away from further help.