Fly fishing rod

Salem Township man rescues birds entangled in fishing gear

Matt Lyson responds to bird calls.

They are always a cry for help, as was the case recently when he responded to a sandhill crane in Milford and a mute swan in White Lake, both entangled in a fishing line, the latter with a hook through its foot.

“We get a lot of birds caught in human waste that has been dumped or neglected,” said Lyson, co-founder of Michigan Duck Rescue and Sanctuary in Salem Township. “Lazy and ignorant people are the root of these problems.”

Concerned citizens who want to stop hurting and healing birds are calling Lyson, including Laura Kahn.

A few weeks ago, Kahn noticed that a mother crane that went to her garden daily was limping. The bird’s condition deteriorated, prompting Kahn to reach out to Lyson in distress.

“She can’t move. The father and baby are well ahead and will be waiting for him, ”Kahn said as she stood watching the birds, which had migrated from her home on the Huron River just across the river. Street.

When Lyson arrives, he approaches the cranes, flanked by volunteers with fishing nets on long poles, but the rescue effort is in vain as the birds soar over the river.

“These are the hardest to catch unless it’s on your own,” he said with a sigh. “This is what you come across. You want them in a yard with evergreens that they can’t hover over.

The next evening, Lyson has relatively easier prey – a young mute swan in White Lake with a hook tying its foot, although upon arrival he finds the young swan guarded by his protective parents.

With two volunteers, one in a kayak to steer the swan towards the shore, Lyson was able to come between the father swan and his injured youngster, and capture the impaled youngster. He then managed to untangle and cut the fishing line and extract the hook, then apply an antibiotic cream to the bird’s joints. Its tool kit includes scissors, sturdy knives, dental picks and a magnifying glass.

Once the animal is captured, the process is easier than you might think, Lyson said. He doesn’t put anything above their heads.

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“Someone is holding the bird, and they’re almost as still as they can get,” he said. “They know they are getting help and are almost always submissive because they are hurt and in pain. I really believe they understand. I have never seen (an injured bird) go mad and aggressive.

Once the hook was removed, the swan, which was to make a full recovery, returned to its parents.

Lyson has infinite patience in helping wildlife, but less tolerance for humans who put them at risk, especially anglers who can cut and drop 30 feet of fishing line, leaving waterfowl vulnerable, especially swans who like to feed in swampy areas.

Birds often starve or lose their limbs due to loss of circulation or in their attempts to break free from double or treble hooks.

Lyson said he responds to at least a dozen birds entangled in fishing lines per year. Every now and then he discovers that animals have become trapped in other human debris, such as the swan he was called upon that was caught in a tomato cage.

    A close up of the sandhill crane with an injury.  He was unable to put weight on his right foot and was limping along the shore.

Erin Rowan, senior conservation associate with Audubon Great Lakes and the MI Birds program run in conjunction with MNR, said she also receives several calls each year regarding birds entangled in fishing lines and other debris, including balloon ribbons and last year’s COVID deluge. -19 masks.

Rowan encourages Good Samaritans to contact licensed wildlife rehabilitators before trying to help the birds themselves, which could be tricky depending on the species and situation. She also advocates for the Animal Help Now app, which can connect a user to a rehabilitator regardless of location.

Rowan said hikers and kayakers can also help by being mindful of trails and water and removing any fishing lines they find. Don’t drop balloons, cut the straps of your masks, and make sure they end up in the trash and not on sidewalks or in parks.

                        Kayakers walk past a trio of sandhill cranes along the Huron River in Milford on August 3, 2021. A group of Michigan Duck Rescue and Sanctuary volunteers attempted to trap the crane on the right which was limping with an injury , but the birds flew away.

Beyond the debris that trap the birds, Rowan cites two other dangers where human help is needed.

Collisions with windows kill between 600 million and 1 billion birds per year which are disoriented by the reflection of the sky and glass habitats.

“It’s a huge problem,” she said, urging residents to put 2-inch by 2-inch patterns on windows where bird strikes have been a problem. Even using a bar of soap to leave a film on it can help.

But the threat that hangs over birds the most is one that will require a much greater effort.

“The biggest threat to birds is climate change,” Rowan said. “Audubon released a climate report in the fall of 2019 which showed that 389 of our bird species in North America are on the verge of extinction due to climate change in a 3 degree Celsius warming scenario. He also estimated that if we manage to keep global warming at an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius, we will save 150. “

Meanwhile, Lyson is focused on one backup at a time, should the opportunity arise. He still hopes to save the crane.

“Eventually, if we can’t have her, she will lose a foot,” he said. “It’s a dice game what’s going on over there. All we can do is keep trying, the rest is in God’s hands. There is not much we can do. “

The young swan is reunited with his father, mother and siblings after the removal of the fishing gear that had tied his foot.

Contact reporter Susan Bromley at [email protected] or 517-281-2412. Follow her on Twitter @ SusanBromley10.

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