Twine Tangles and Hurts Wildlife

By Whitney Royster
JACKSON, WY–Baling twine is causing severe injuries and deaths to some wildlife, and officials are asking people to make sure twine is disposed of properly.

Erin Smith, information and education specialist for the Lander regional office of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said baling twine has always been a problem, but this year, people are seeing more of its ill effects.

“Baling twine is about as common in Wyoming as cowboy boots,” she said. “It seems like there’s more instances recently and more public outcry. We’ve seen an awful lot of it this spring.”

Osprey are particularly vulnerable to baling twine–usually orange and used to wrap hay bales. Osprey use baling twine to build nests.

Andrea Cerovski, nongame bird biologist with Game and Fish, said Osprey fly over trees with the twine–still usually tied together in loops–and those loops catch on trees and can result in the birds’ death. The birds find the twine as they build nests near streams, where hay fields are common.

“It’s such a shame to see these magnificent birds being killed by something that is so easy to prevent,” Cerovski said in an agency news release. “Something as simple as properly disposing of baling twine would be a boon to nesting Osprey.”

Smith said people can simply collect the twine and put it in their pockets, or just be sure to take it away from fields where wildlife can be ensnared. Or, the twine can be cut up into smaller pieces.

Game and Fish’s Bart Kroger received a reliable report in March of an Osprey with a wad of twine attached to its talons, according to Game and Fish. When the southern Big Horn Basin wildlife biologist got to the location on Owl Creek near Thermopolis, the bird could not be found and was feared dead.

A buck Antelope was also tangled in baling twine and wire May 12 near Jeffrey City. Three Game and Fish employees tried to catch the buck, which appeared to be tangled for “some time,” according to Stan Harter, Lander wildlife biologist.

“He probably weighed a third less than he should have and had little hair left where he was caught in the wire,” Harter said. “In addition, the animal had severe joint damage from the wire cutting into him and likely wouldn’t survive the resulting infection.” Game and Fish officials killed the animal.

Four days earlier, a buck Antelope near South Pass City was observed with barbed wire around its head. Although visibly distressed, the animal could move freely. A Mule Deer doe north of Buffalo has been sporting baling twine around its neck for three years. There have been other unofficial reports of big game carrying twine or wire this spring, according to Game and Fish.

“Everyone can do their part in preventing these types of wildlife injuries and deaths by cleaning up loose fencing materials and trash and by following wildlife-friendly fencing guidelines,” Harter said.

Those guidelines recommend that fences be no more than 42 inches high with at least 12 inches between the top two wires. The bottom wire should be smooth and at least 16 inches from the ground. The space between the top two wires prevents deer and elk from getting hung up when they jump the fence due to the way they kick their hind legs backward, and the space below the fence allows antelope to pass safely.

Cost-share programs are always available to landowners interested in making their property more wildlife-friendly. Information on these programs and additional information on fencing designs can be obtained from local Game and Fish offices. –Casper Star Tribune