Monofilament fishing line took the life of a juvenile bald eagle found hanging from a tree in a state-owned Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in Nanjemoy, Md.
The eagle was spotted August 20 by Ginger Azuree and Sue Kaspar who were on a boat, not far from their house.
“We immediately freaked out,” said Azuree.
Azuree said she and Kaspar returned to their home, gathered tools and their phones while also trying to find help from anyone including neighbors, Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) and wildlife rehabilitation facilities.
Only one neighbor could be found and with his help, the three were able to get the eagle down using a lopper pole. The bird, which had been caught up with fishing line, was still alive, but not in good shape.
NRP Officer First Class James Edward Major arrived and helped box the eagle, but according to Azuree, he said he was unable to transport the bird because he was the only NRP officer on duty in Southern Maryland.
Azuree said she got in touch with Suzanne Shoemaker, director of Owl Moon Raptor Center who arranged to have Mary Hollinger, an Owl Moon volunteer rescuer/transporter, meet the women in Calvert County.
Despite all the heroic measures to save the young eagle, it died from its injuries.
Hollinger posted on Facebook, “I transport a lot of injured birds, but I’m making this post public, to show the horrors of discarded fishing line. This beautiful young bald eagle was found dangling from a tree, all tangled up in the stuff. Rescuers managed to get it down and cut most of the line off, but the damage was too severe, and it died on the way to wildlife rehabilitators. Such a tragic, unnecessary death.”
According to Azuree, there’s been ongoing issues with debris, including fishing line, left at Nanjemoy WMA.
According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website, the mission of the Wildlife Management Area system is “To conserve and enhance diverse wildlife populations and associated habitats while providing for public enjoyment of the State’s wildlife resources through hunting and other wildlife-dependent recreation.”
The website continues, “WMAs are primarily managed for hunting, trapping and other wildlife-dependent recreational uses.”
This area is well-known for its wildlife.
“At Nanjemoy WMA you are likely to see a variety of wildlife ranging from turkey, deer and foxes in the forests to Great Blue Herons, Eagles, Turtles and Ospreys along the river and in the wetlands,” states DNR’s website.
Wildlife incidents involving fishing line happen frequently and in many places.
Azuree now questions if she should do more having seen the damage fishing line can do to wildlife.
“I’m devastated that she died,” said Azuree. “Should I visit the beach more? Do we need to be more aware?”
She also questions why other people aren’t cleaning up after themselves.
“It’s okay to fish – just clean up after yourself,” Azuree said. “Clean up your fishing line. It’s just incomprehensible to me that people are that irresponsible.”
Donna L. Cole is an award-winning investigative and multimedia reporter. She’s also a volunteer bird of prey rescuer.