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Please, don’t feed the birds

January 18, 2012
Pine Island Eagle

To the Editor:

Today, I once again rescued a bird choking on fish scraps thrown to them by people cleaning fish. This one was in St. James City and was a wood stork, an endangered species. His throat was punctured, he was bleeding severely, and his chances of survival are slim. I've been a volunteer for CROW for some 18 years and I have seen this hundreds of times. That's why the Florida Legislature made tossing fish scraps to the birds illegal. It is also illegal to feed or harass any endangered species such as wood storks.

Yes, I know birds love fish and giving the scraps to them seems like an act of kindness. The difference is that the wading birds know how to safely swallow a whole fish head first, but they don't know how to safely swallow fish scraps. If it gets sideways, the fish spine or fin can do serious and often irreparable damage.

One solution to safely and conveniently dispose of fish scraps is to install a vertical PVC tube extending below the water at your fish cleaning station. The scraps will either sink immediately or float inside the tube until they do, which also helps attract fish and crabs to your dock.

While I'm on this soapbox, I should add that an even much much bigger problem is discarded monofilament, which can keep on killing for years. Thousands of birds, including many endangered species, get entangled and die of starvation or infection. If you get your fishing line caught in the mangroves or wherever - it is your responsibility to go in there and get it, and that too is required by both Florida law as well as good sportsmanship.

Phil Buchanan

St. James City



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