The horror of entanglement
Every year WildCare's Wildlife Hospital treats dozens of patients for entanglement injuries.
Some of the entanglements are Halloween-related, like the little Screech Owl caught in fake spiderweb decorations a few years ago, and at this time of year, we know that the very next patient admitted could have something spooky or spangly snarled around his body.
A pigeon was rescued from Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, wrapped, like the little owl, in fake spiderweb decorations. His rescuer was able to untangle him, but he had a swollen foot that meant he needed medical care at WildCare.
Halloween and other holidays for which people decorate the exteriors of their homes are particularly dangerous times for wildlife. Anything that dangles, loops or flutters is a potential hazard. Candy wrappers and increased human activity at Halloween also put animals at risk.
How can you help keep wildlife safe this Halloween?
Here are some easy ways you can help make sure this Halloween isn't a scary one for wildlife!
- Please don't use fake spiderweb or other decorations made of entangling fibers. Wild animals can easily get trapped and not be able to break the material to free themselves. When you come across people who have hung the webbing, they may not be aware of the dangers to wildlife. Consider printing the flyer below for them, or at least speak to them about checking the webbing twice a day, in the morning and at night, to search for entangled animals.
- Avoid decorations with loops or closed circles. A foraging animal can inadvertently put his head through a loop or circle and choke himself.
- Avoid decorations with small, dangling, edible-looking parts.
- Don't leave candy out where wildlife may find it and dispose of all candy wrappers properly.
- Carved pumpkins may be attractive to wildlife as food, so properly dispose of them if you don't want post-holiday trick-or-treaters.
- Be alert for nocturnal wildlife while trick-or-treating. Avoid cutting across lawns and through brushy areas to avoid accidental encounters with your wild neighbors.
- Drivers on Halloween night know to be on the alert for children, but we encourage you to also be aware of wildlife that may be scared out of hiding by all the unusual nighttime activity.
- Strings of lights can become snare traps for adult male deer who get them caught in their antlers. Avoid hanging lights or decorations in areas where deer pass.
- Click to download a poster to share with friends and neighbors about the risks to wildlife of entangling decorations!
Help prevent entanglement injuries
Halloween decorations aside, WildCare wants to make everyone aware of the dangers to wildlife of all types of string, twine, netting and line.
So many of the injuries to our wild patients are 100% preventable, and these injuries are no exception.
- Always properly dispose of string-like objects. This means wrapping them tightly into a ball before throwing them away, and making sure they are contained, even within the garbage can.
- WildCare asks you to not use netting or webbing in your garden. Especially filament-like garden netting is nearly invisible to wildlife, and too many animals get tangled while hunting the very species you're trying to keep out of your garden.
- If you must use netting, always zip-tie it away from ground level to prevent entangling snakes, and check the netting twice a day (morning and night) for potential entangled victims.
- Avoid or properly dispose of anything with loops or closed circles. A foraging animal can inadvertently put his head through a loop or circle and choke himself.
- Always properly dispose of fishing line and hooks. Many popular fishing spots in Marin County have special bins in place for line disposal, but any closed trash container will do. Never leave fishing line on the ground where animals can reach it.
- Don't clean your hairbrush and throw long hair outside. Human hair is a surprisingly durable and dangerous entanglement hazard to wild birds.
A Great Horned Owl can eat as many as six mice in a day while in care in the Wildlife Hospital! A tiny Western Screech Owl may only eat three mice a day, but it is still expensive to feed this very specialized diet to these recovering birds.
WildCare treats 50 - 75 owls every year, of several different species, and we admit owl patients throughout the year. The frozen mice (defrosted, of course) that we feed them cost $0.55 each.
$23.10 feeds a Great Horned Owl for a week
$11.55 feeds a Western Screech Owl for a week
$7.70 feeds a Northern Saw Whet Owl for a week
Click here to make a monthly donation to help us feed our hungry owls! A monthly recurring donation will support our owl patients all year long!