A baby osprey that called the York River home was euthanized after being injured by plastic pollution.
A 2-month-old osprey had been one of two chicks seen this summer by followers of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s OspreyCam. The camera provides live video of an osprey family that nests on a platform in the York River, just outside VIMS’s Gloucester Point campus.
The young bird became entangled in a monofilament fishing line returned to the nest by its parent, according to a VIMS press release Tuesday.
Staff from VIMS, the Center for Conservation Biology at William & Mary and the Wildlife Center of Virginia tried to free the bird. However, the chick’s left wing was badly maimed by the line and its resulting immobility.
The injuries were so severe that experts ruled out recovery and release, deciding instead to euthanize the animal.
“It breaks my heart that carelessness or thoughtlessness on the part of an angler may have led to the death of this magnificent creature,” said VIMS News and Media Director David Malmquist. “We can all do better when it comes to cleaning up after ourselves when in the outdoors.”
Trash and pollution is commonly found in osprey nests, according to the release. The species’ natural instinct is to line their nests with buoyant materials and often mistake plastic items as suitable material.
The Gloucester Point osprey adults have been seen on OspreyCam returning to their nest with flip-flops, plastic bags, cup lids, a swim diaper and other plastic items.
“It’s in almost all the nests, some type of trash,” said Bryan Watts, director of the Center for Conservation Biology. “Most is not really dangerous to the chicks. But when they pick up monofilament lines, those are much more hazardous, because the chicks can become entangled.”
As a result of the threat of monofilament fishing lines to wildlife, many organizations including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Clean Marina program at VIMS have placed recycling receptacles for the fishing lines in areas where angling is popular.
There are three containers along the Gloucester Point Fishing Pier. The release said it is not known whether the line that entangled the baby osprey was improperly disposed of by a fisherman or torn off in a snag.
VIMS reminds citizens to properly dispose of their trash, as osprey aren’t the only organisms who are put in danger by plastic waste.
“We see these impacts with larger organisms like the osprey and it’s obvious,” he adds, “but this also happens on a micro scale — with impacts on zooplankton and the other smaller organisms we don’t see.”