Fishing Line and Netting is a charity run advice website which is part of the Starlight Trust




Becoming tangled in line or netting can cause serious injuries to wildlife. It is very tempting when faced with this scenario to want to save the animal yourself by simply cutting it free. But there are several good reasons why you should not do this. In this scenario you will almost always need to seek help from a wildlife rescue.


Fishing line

Fishing line causes thousands of injuries to wildlife each year. The problem is it doesn’t biodegrade so a discarded piece of fishing line is left lying in wait for a bird or animal to swallow it or get tangled up in it.

Commonly fishing line wraps itself around birds’ toes, cutting off the circulation and causing infection, gangrene and amputations. Birds whose feet are affected can be difficult to help as their their ability to fly is often unaffected.

Left in the water, fishing line is easily mistaken for weed and swallowed by waterfowl. If you see a bird with fishing line hanging from its beak it is important that you seek assistance and do not try to capture the bird yourself. NEVER try to remove fishing line from the mouth. There may be a hook on the other end which could cause serious lasting damage so the bird should be assessed and treated at a wildlife rescue. It’s worth noting though that just as a bird can get weed and line mixed up so can you. Double check before you call that what you’re seeing really is line and not just a harmless bit of pond weed!

For advice about capture, care and containment for birds affected by fishing line, please visit the advice page for the species affected.

Netting or fencing

A trapped animal will be extremely frightened and will view your approach not as help but as a great threat. It will try to defend itself and if the victim is a squirrel, fox, badger, deer or swan for example it could cause you serious injury. These animals should only be handled by experienced rescuers with specialist equipment. If the casualty is a smaller, less dangerous type and you’re able to, cover it with a towel to keep it calm and cut it free with a good few inches of the netting left attached. Do not attempt to remove the netting from the animal yourself unless absolutely necessary, for example, if it’s restricting the animal’s breathing.

It is very important that you do not just release the animal. If trapped for some time, the animal may be dehydrated, malnourished, suffering from shock, hypothermia or heat stroke. It may need a chance to rest and recuperate before being made to face the challenges of life in the wild again. Constriction by netting, fencing or line can cause lasting damage due to the loss of blood supply to the affected area. It is therefore vital that every animal trapped in this way is assessed and treated by an experienced wildlife rehabilitator.

For advice about capture, care and containment for trapped animals, please visit the advice page for the species affected.