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Copyright 2011 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

Baling Twine Kills Osprey

By Dorinda Troutman, RMR Staff Writer

 

May 2011 issue

  

Photographer Jana Thompson found this entangled dead Osprey in December in Sublette County , Wyoming . She wrote that since Osprey migrate in late October or early November this bird must have been entangled long enough to starve. Photo by Thompson Photography of Spearfish, SD.

 

     Osprey became endangered in the 1960s after dying off from pesticide poisoning, but have made a tremendous comeback in the West since the poisons were banned. Now Osprey are being threatened by another man-made product – polypropylene (plastic) baling twine.

     Osprey, the large, noisy fish-eating hawks common wherever there are rivers, ponds or lakes in the West are attracted to baling twine for nest construction, and it is killing them.

     Osprey pick up winter-softened, natural material such as old cattail or corn stalks for nest lining, and baling twine may seem like a good substitute. One nest that was recently blown down by high winds near Missoula, Montana, contained a quarter mile of baling twine.

     Heiko Langner, University of Montana geosciences biologist with the Raptor View Research Center has been studying Osprey and has placed webcams in three nests in Western Montana . His research indicates about 15% of Osprey in western Montana are dying after being entangled in baling twine.

     One of Langners’ webcams is on the Grant Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site near Deer Lodge, Montana , where all ranching activities are done traditionally. Langner explains that even though the Park Service employees and volunteers are very diligent in picking up baling twine on the ranch, the Osprey pair nesting there still find it in the area and use it with their nest building.

     Nestlings become entangled in the twine, cutting off their circulation as they grow, or entrapping them and keeping them from leaving the nest. Adults, with their huge talons, opposable toes and soles with spiny scales (all the better to hold slippery fish) get entangled in it and die.

     Jim Knight, Associate Director of Montana State University Extension Program and author of “Manage Your Land for Wildlife,” says, “Most ranchers do pick up their twine, and it can be recycled with other plastics, or disposed of with trash.”

     Knight also says that wildlife such as deer and antelope can get entangled in baling twine, which can cut off their circulation and kill them.

     Langner says that plastic baling twine is rot resistant and takes many years to break down, and all colors of twine attract Osprey. He says to not hang baling twine on fenceposts, leave it in the back of a truck or a pile in the open, but put it into a lidded container (such as a 5-gallon bucket or 50 gallon drum) and dispose of it. As Osprey will even hunt a landfill for baling twine, it is safest to cut up all twine into small pieces before disposal.

 

RMR’s Production Manager, Dorinda Troutman, is an avian aficionado. She writes a weekly column for a local newspaper, entitled “Bird Seed,” which features details about and historical accounts of many bird species which inhabit the Western U.S.

 

Copyright 2011 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

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