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The Devastating Impact of Fishing Line on Wildlife

A swallow entangled in fishing line dangles precariously above the water, just short of drowning.  This bird was rescued and released.

This crow hung upside down until it died after its leg became entangled in fishing line and then to a tree limb.

A close up of the crow’s foot entangled with fishing line.

The above photos depict just some of the horrors caused by improperly discarded fishing line. The photo to the left (taken by Bill Buchanan) shows a swallow entangled in fishing line dangling just inches from drowning in the water.  This bird was saved.  The other two photos are of a crow that was not so fortunate.  Its foot became entangled in fishing line and then to the branch of a tree.  It hung there until it died.

Improperly discarded fishing line cripples and kills and wildlife at an alarming rate.  Birds frequently become entangled in the line, usually resulting in their death though sometimes severing a limb to free themselves.  Of those few that are able to sacrifice a limb for a chance of survival many will only eventually die when the wound becomes infected.  This is a totally unnecessary and wasteful tragedy that can be easily prevented.  If you fish, remove all line and hooks and take it with you for proper disposal, if you are hiking or bird watching and encounter discarded fishing line (or any other type of string) remove it.

When I began visiting a park with lakes near my home I frequently encountered dead or dying birds entangled in line.  I began photographing these birds, used the photos to create a poster with a caption asking fishermen to remove their hooks and line, and hung the poster in the park.  I immediately saw a dramatic decrease in the amount of line being discarded.  Most fishermen are unaware that this type of tragedy is far to frequently the consequence of throwing their waste line on the ground.  Once aware of the problem, many discontinued the practice, becoming responsible sportsmen.

What You Can Do

  • Collect and properly dispose of fishing line and any type of string you encounter

  • Click the button “Posters” to download two posters you can print and post in areas that fishermen frequent

  • Get a fishing line recycling program started in your local park. For more information, visit

More Photos

The photos on this site are copyrighted Donna Handforth and Bill Buchanan but may be duplicated and used for any educational, non-profit purpose.

The two photos above, donated to this site by Bill Buchanan, are of a Canadian Goose found dead with its foot severed from fishing line.

The image above is of a Canadian goose that lost its lower leg and foot to a fishing line entanglement. Efforts were made to catch the goose before the limb was severed but were unsuccessful.

A finch that swallowed a hook that was discarded with bait still on it.

An xray showing a hook in the oesophagus of a Muscovy duck

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