Birds of Central Park

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Monofilament Tragedy at Harlem Meer

(Today Jim Demes reported he cut a robin out of a monofilament web at the Meer. The story below happend on Friday.)

This Pekin Duck was coming to the shore of the Harlem Meer to be fed by two ladies with bread in one hand and three dogs in the other (bad idea--feeding ducks with dogs nearby makes the ducks think dogs are ok until one day a dog ups and kills them.)

As the duck came close to shore it got snagged on some monofilament left by a careless fisherman. It immediately went into a roll and tried to remove the monofilament. After three or four tries it was successful. The ladies who lured the duck to shore called the Urban Park Rangers and one of them came over intent on freeing the duck from it's monofilament trap. Long story short--the duck never was captured but since it had already shed it's monofilament handcuffs (duck cuffs?) the creature was fine.

That could not be said of this robin that I photographed later. It had become trapped in a monofilament spider web and had died a horrible death.

Monofilament fishing line kills but many anglers don't get it: if they leave their tangled line on the banks of a lake, river, or stream it's going to kill wildlife.

Songbirds like this robin can fly into a spider web of line hanging on a tree branch, get tangled and die. Waterfowl can get it wrapped around the neck or legs as we saw a couple of years ago with the Great Blue Heron at the Meer. As the line gets tighter it cuts viciously into the flesh of the birds and can kill outright or make them vulnerable to predation.

Even big birds such as eagles and osprey fall prey to fishing line. Osprey and other fish-eating raptors ingest line from fish and utilmately succumb. Starvation is the most common death for wildlife that ingests or becomes tangled in monofilament, according to conservation agencies around the country.

It either wraps around the neck or gets clogged in the stomach, preventing ingestion of food. A study of Arizona's breeding population of Bald Eagles showed that nearly half of the areas where eagles had built nests had reported cases of monofilament entanglement or the presence of line in nests.

There is a solution and I thought the Conservancy was going to go whole hog in implementing it when one of their gardeners told me about it last year up at the Meer. This gardener told me last year they were going to put up PVC tubes around the Meer where anglers could place discarded monofilament. Sure enough, a couple of these went PVC receptacles went up but the accompanying signs were soon pulled down and since there was little or no program in place to educate or inform anglers about the problem/solution monofilament continues to be carelessly disgarded around the Meer.

If you want to do something about the problem contact the Central Park Conservancy and Parks Department and voice your concern. You can also contact them by calling 311.