A concerned elderly resident in North Naples called the von Arx Wildlife Hospital after seeing a great blue heron sitting in two feet of water on the edge of a lake for two days. Wildlife Hospital Volunteer, Susan Ferretti, was finishing a shift at the hospital when the call came in and she offered to stop by and assess the situation on her way home.
The reason the heron hadn’t moved for two days was obvious when Susan approached the bird. As the heron attempted to fly, it was pulled back down in the water. The heron had a treble hook impaled in its leg with the line attached to the hook spanned thirty feet up into a nearby tree.
The resident along with Susan jumped in and grabbed the heron. He and Susan then secured the heron in a dog crate that a neighbor had made available for the rescue situation
Susan transported the heron to the hospital where a physical exam revealed two significant wounds on its leg where the treble hook had pierced through the skin and muscle. Staff disinfected the wound and started the heron on pain medication and antibiotic. The heron was settled in a large recovery space in the bird room.
The injury and suffering the heron endured from the fishing hook and line was preventable.
How to Fish Responsibly
Be responsible if you participate in angling activities and take precautions to avoid injuring birds. Check to ensure no birds are flying by as you cast your line. Never leave baited fishing hooks and poles unattended. Keep a towel, wire cutters and scissors in your tackle box so if you do hook a bird, you have all the equipment needed to safely remove the hook and line.
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. Covering the head calms the bird making it easier to handle. Carefully push the hook through to expose the barb. Cut the barb and gently back the barbless hook out. Bring the bird to the wildlife hospital if the fishing hook is deeply embedded or has been ingested.
Always place used and unwanted fishing tackle in appropriate trash receptacles. If you miscast and your line becomes entangled in surrounding vegetation, retrieve the monofilament debris. Hooks and line left in the environment can be deadly to unsuspecting wildlife.
The residents were incredible and without their concern and help, the heron would have continued to suffer. The group took action to rescue the bird and were so affected by the situation they are disseminating a letter to their entire community about the dangers of hooking birds while fishing. There is hope their efforts will prevent another bird from experiencing the injuries and suffering the heron endured.
Two eastern cottontails and three grey squirrels were released last week while several releases were postponed due to inclement weather.
Please visit our website at www.conservancy.org and learn more about the opportunities to get involved. If you are unable to give your time as a volunteer, consider becoming a member or donate. No matter how you choose to become involved, be assured your support allows the Conservancy to continue to protect Southwest Florida’s water, land, wildlife and future.
Joanna Fitzgerald is the Director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Call 239-262-2273 or see conservancy.org.