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Human practices dangerous to Pine Island birds

February 13, 2013
Pine Island Eagle

To the editor:

The eagles, ospreys and other raptors have recently hatched their young and are now very busy gathering food for them - expect fledging in a few weeks. The wading birds will also soon gather in nesting colonies. All this activity opens the birds up to dangers created by humans.

The biggest danger is monofilament and fishing hooks abandoned by sports fishermen. The birds swallow the bait and hooks and damage their organs, and they get their wings and feet entangled in the monofilament and sometimes hang upside down in the mangroves dying a slow horrible death from shock and starvation. Abandoning fishing hooks and monofilament in the wild is illegal in Florida - never ever do that, and if you see where others have done so, please don't leave it there.

The second biggest danger to our birds is the well-meaning but ill-advised (and in Florida also illegal) practice of feeding them your leavings from fish cleaning. Pine Island birds know how to swallow whole fish (which is head first), but they do not know how to safely swallow fish heads, barbs, spines, etc., when separated from the whole fish. The result is soften slashed throats, torn pouches and damaged organs, which usually results in infection and death. You can safely and conveniently dispose of your fish leavings by installing a vertical PVC pipe extending below the water line at your fish cleaning station.

The third biggest danger to our birds is the improper (and also illegal) use of rat poison. Some of the most popular brands kill within minutes by causing the blood vessels to explode - an extremely painful way to die. This is my 20th year as a CROW wildlife rescue volunteer, and every year I have seen Pine Island birds and mammals killed by careless placement of rat poison. Raccoons and many birds are very clever and access places you might not expect in your home and boat. Even if your placement of the poison is secure, a recently poisoned rat taken back to an eagle or osprey nest will in turn kill the young to which it is fed - so please also safely dispose of dead rats.

Phil Buchanan

St. James City



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