One of the most notable facts about this month’s four-hour, multi-person rescue of an osprey hanging upside down from a Ponderosa pine at Heron Lake State Park is that it likely didn’t have to happen.
The female osprey was tangled in discarded monofilament fishing line. Sure, it may have been a snag exposed by low water levels. But Cheryl Bell, development director of the Wildlife Center in Española, says “every time I walk around that lake, I’m picking up fishing line.”
Making it more probable that the unschooled or lazy are leaving line on the shore, tempting an osprey to pick it up as nesting material only to become so tangled it hangs upside down for days until canoeists discover it and launch an ingenious and impromptu rescue.
It’s unfortunate the state has yet to hook users with its fishing line recycling program. Last year the Parks Division provided PVC collection units and signage “to multiple state park lakes that are popular fishing destinations,” according to a spokesman.
As staff at the Wildlife Center work to help the bird recover use of its feet (which were strangled in the line) and overcome neurological problems (from dangling upside down for so long) it is important to not only recognize the time and effort of the many outdoorsmen — led by wildlife biologists Dale Stahlecker of Santa Fe and Bob Murphy of Albuquerque — who launched and performed the rescue, but the importance of preserving the state’s streams, rivers and lakes while enjoying them.
Until picking everything up and/or packing it out becomes second nature, wildlife will continue to rely on conservation-minded New Mexicans to pick them out of avoidable life-threatening situations.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.