Unfortunately for wildlife in Missouri and elsewhere, fishing line is involved with catching more than fish.

Discarded fishing line has long been a problem for animals that frequent areas where humans like to fish. Anglers, canoeists and others who recreate along the state’s waterways used to be the people who were most aware of this problem. 

In recent years, social media’s ability to distribute pictures on a broad basis has brought this issue to a much wider audience. As a result, it’s easy to find pictures of birds and other animals that have either died or been injured because they became entangled in fishing line. Sadly, that means this is still a problem.

Humans who discard fishing line provide the landscape with a lethal device that keeps on killing – studies have shown monofilament line can take up to 600 years to break down in the environment.

Discarded fishing line can pose problems for many types of wildlife. Because a variety of bird species frequent stream banks and shorelines, they are frequent victims and, thus, provide many examples of the problems caused by discarded fishing line.

Birds that get tangled in fishing line will struggle and this frequently tightens the line to the extent that it cuts into legs, feet, necks, wings and other body parts. This can lead to serious injury or death.

Even if the line does not tighten enough to cause serious injury, it can restrict movement by decreasing the range of motion of legs or wings. This can make it harder for the bird to forage and harder to escape predators.

When fishing line becomes tangled around a bird’s beak or bill, it can lead to starvation. Birds that ingest fishing line may eventually starve, too, because the plastic in their stomach restricts how much food they can digest.

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