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Wildlife Comments (1)

What's at the End of the Line?


It’s never a good sign when a wild bird arrives at PAWS with fishing line hanging out of its mouth. The line itself is dangerous enough, causing injury through entanglement and laceration of skin, but the real danger lies at the far end of that line disappearing down the animal’s esophagus. You never know what might be down there, but you can be certain it's nothing good.

The most recent patient who presented us with the “what’s at the end of the line?” puzzle was a Common Loon. She was picked up by a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officer in Shelton, WA after she became too entangled in fishing line to move. She was transported to West Sound Wildlife Center on Bainbridge Island who then transferred her to PAWS. Radiographs taken here at the wildlife center answered the question of the day.


A hook was lodged deep in the loon’s digestive tract. The PAWS Wildlife Center’s veterinarians have a few tricks up their sleeves when it comes to minimally traumatic hook removal, but this particular hook refused to budge. Surgery was an option, but that would have meant a long stay in care for a species of bird that does not normally fare well in captivity. Fortunately, the VCA Veterinary Specialty Center of Seattle offered an alternative.

On April 17, we drove the loon to the VCA office in Lynnwood. A VCA veterinarian successfully removed the hook from the loon using an endoscopic procedure. With the hook no longer an issue, all that was left to do was get the bird in the water so she could preen and work on her waterproofing, and fatten her up for release.


Four days after the hook was removed, the loon was ready to resume her life in the wild. She was released into Puget Sound, but she and her kind will be moving inland during the coming weeks as they migrate to freshwater lakes and ponds to breed.

Derelict fishing gear poses a threat not only to birds, but to wildlife in general. Keep an eye out for abandoned nets, line, hooks, and other tackle whenever you are near the water, and properly dispose of any that you find. By doing so, you may be helping to save wild lives.

Learn more about helping local wildlife at PAWS.org



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Thanks to everyone involved in saving this precious life. Thanks for the tip, too, Kevin. It will really help if there are lots of us on the lookout for the hazards you mentioned.

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