Entanglement & Water Recreation

Posted May 31, 2021 by Vindi Sekhon

As we move into warmer weather, more and more residents of Metro Vancouver are heading to the water to beat the heat. With Wildlife Rescue Association being located right by beautiful Burnaby Lake, we see first-hand the joy that water can bring to all our communities, young and old, human and animal.

With the increase in aquatic recreation comes an increase in litter in our lakes, rivers, and streams. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, we are also seeing a new type of litter: face masks. According to the Ocean Conservancy, 94% of volunteers reported seeing face masks littering the ground daily in their own communities. Unfortunately, the masks are not only unsightly; they can also pose a huge problem to local wildlife, such as the Great Blue Heron. Long-legged wading birds can get their feet tangled in the loops of the face mask. Leg and foot entanglement can also be fatal to smaller birds that make their habitat in the Burnaby Lake area, such as swallows and chickadees.

Fishing gear is another form of litter that can be dangerous to local wildlife. Since fishing line is almost invisible to a bird but extremely strong, many birds can become entangled or tear off pieces of their wings or beaks. Turtles and aquatic birds, such as the Ring-Necked Duck, are especially susceptible to entanglement. Fishing line doesn’t just hurt wildlife near the water; The Audubon Society of California reported a Barn Swallow that strangled to death on fishing line just a few inches away from its nest. Burnaby Lake is home to Barn Swallows as well, and we at Wildlife Rescue Association frequently care for fledgling Barn Swallows in our centre.

Heron entangled in netting over a Koi pond.

So, this summer, what can we do to prevent littering our local waterways?


  • Bring a designated garbage bag in your pack

It’s one thing to say, “pack it in, pack it out”. But when you are dealing with wet wipes, gooey candy bar wrappers, or other sticky plastic goods, you may be less motivated to put it in your pocket or backpack. Having a designated trash bag – an old shopping bag or something similar- will remind you to pack out your trash.

  • Pick up litter

Candy wrappers, fishing lines, and pop bottles are all things that can easily be gathered on the shore. It can feel icky to pick up face masks, given that they are used to protect us from covid19, but if you are mindful about picking it up by the ear loop and using hand sanitizer afterward, you will be helping wildlife while remaining safe. If you are exploring Burnaby Lake with your children, make it a game to see who can pick up the most litter, or who can be the first one to pick up ten pieces of plastic. It’s amazing what children will find when they’re motivated to win a game!

  • Using reusables

The less plastic you bring into the park, the less likely you are to leave plastic behind. Pack your lunch in a reusable container rather than a Ziploc bag. Bring a reusable water bottle. For coronavirus protection, reusable cloth masks are not just a good way to avoid using plastic, they are stylish too!

These are just a few ways that we can work together to make the park safer for our wildlife. If you come across wildlife in distress or unsure what to do please call Wildlife Rescue at 604-526-7275 to seek advice.

Thank you for supporting wildlife in need!

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