The dangers are everywhere.
Netting, monofilament line, hooks and other derelict fishing gear can be found in and around nearly every major body of water in Washington State. Much of it lies below the surface, invisible to us until some hapless animal gets hooked or entangled and drags it back into the light. The animals that manage to struggle out of the water and find help are the lucky ones. Many more that become entangled never surface again.
On July 10, a juvenile River Otter found good fortune in the midst of bad when he became entangled in a small section of gill-netting at Commodore Park in Seattle. A Seattle Animal Control officer was dispatched to the scene and was able to safely contain the otter and bring him to PAWS. At PAWS, Wildlife Rehabilitator Stephanie Herman and Rehabilitation Manager Emily Meredith were able to disentangle the feisty otter. The photo below shows Emily holding the section of netting that they removed.
Fortunately, the otter had not been entangled for very long. He was uninjured, healthy and, once unencumbered by the net, quite a handful.
The Seattle Animal Control Officer that had rescued the otter offered to take him back to his home. I assisted in getting the otter back into his transport cage, but not before donning a pair of kevlar-lined gloves. The otter protested his handling by doing his best to bite and by letting out an ear-piercing scream.
I placed the otter in his transport cage and sent him on his way. Hopefully he will be able to avoid a repeat of his experience with the fishing net, but as long as derelict gear is out there, the possibility remains.
To learn more about the dangers posed to wildlife by derelict fishing gear and how you can help, visit Derelictgear.org