MEDINA COUNTY, Ohio — They may be birds of prey but, unfortunately, far too often their greatest threat is mankind. While the primary mission of the Medina Raptor Center is to rescue and rehabilitate injured hawks, eagles, owls and songbirds, volunteers also aim to educate the general public on the dangers of carelessly discarded fishing line, which can often be a death sentence for birds.
On Thursday, raptor center staff received a call from a concerned citizen reporting an owl that had become ensnared in fishing line. It’s a call that the center receives regularly, said Laura Jordan, the executive director of the Medina Raptor Center.
“It’s something that he had gotten into because someone left [the fishing line] on the ground,” Jordan said.
The stunning and striking male great horned owl had more than two feet of discarded fishing line wrapped around its legs and wings. Luckily, a Medina County sheriff’s deputy went above and beyond the call of duty by donning waders and plucking the distressed bird from a certain death. The bird was brought back to the raptor center where volunteers had the precarious task of carefully removing the fishing line. Last year, the raptor center admitted roughly 400 birds of all types.
Many of them had fishing line-related injuries.
“It wraps around their legs usually and it tightens and tightens and tightens. The more they struggle the more awful it is,” Jordan said. “It’s an awful injury. We see so many songbirds that are dead with it. They get wrapped up in it and take it back to their nests and make nests out of it. They don’t know any better.”
While many parks and recreational areas across Northeast Ohio have designated receptacles for fishing line people continue to disregard them. Birds that hunt near lakes, creeks and rivers are especially susceptible to becoming entangled in fishing line that is often either carelessly discarded or tangled on trees and shrubs. Jordan said the problem becomes even more prevalent in the spring and summer months.
It’s a huge problem, huge problem,” Jordan said. “We have seen several eagles [tangled]. I’ve had to put down one. I’m probably going to put down another one on Tuesday. I have one right now that has fishing line that has [tangled] on both legs. It was caused by people. It’s a really deadly problem we have.”
At its numerous public events and seminars, the volunteer-led raptor center spends much of its time trying to educate the public on the careless or inadvertent dangers that people pose to these birds. Properly disposing of fishing line is an incredibly easy fix, Jordan said.
“It’s so simple, so simple,” Jordan said. “I think people need to be responsible if they are going to go fishing. They need to carry their stuff home with them or put it in a receptacle. I fish and I’ve caught my bobber on a tree limb. I don’t rest until I get it out of there.”
Jordan also recommends that people who are throwing away their fishing line only do so after cutting it into small pieces.
As for the great horned owl that staff rescued on Thursday, the prognosis is good, Jordan said. The bird is extremely lucky. While it is still recovering from its injuries, which aren’t considered to be serious, the owl is still not ready to be released back into the wild.
Jordan hopes it will be ready for release by this weekend.
“We wanted to make sure that he is acting okay and flying okay,” Jordan said. “What I am looking for is that he’s on the ground and we want him to fly all the way to the top and perch.”
The Medina Raptor Center runs completely off donations.