I watched a Great Blue Heron systematically survey the remains at each picnic table and garbage can in a county park in central Florida. It pulled out Styrofoam plates and disposable utensils. It poked and prodded at beverage containers. The treasure here was ironically a chicken wing that it tossed back and choked down. The bird shook its head from side to side. Clearly the bone wasn’t going down easily. When the bird stood erect again, it looked back into the garbage can for another “easy” meal. I shooed the bird away and dejectedly notice monofilament line wrapped around its foot.
There are a variety of things wrong with this situation.
- We are a disposable society. I would estimate that nearly everything in that garbage can was used once and thrown away. Much of it – plastic cups and aluminum cans could have been recycled.
- None of the garbage containers in the park had lids which meant that raccoons, opossums, birds and a variety of other wildlife had free access to human waste.
- Wind could blow the garbage out. Wildlife could pull it out and from there the garbage blows elsewhere and becomes a problem for more wildlife.
- It’s unsightly.
- The heron was entangled by fishing line that was discarded, possible with a fish on the end of the line. If the line tightens further it could cut off circulation resulting in the loss of the limb or an infection resulting in death.
- Herons eat, fish, frogs, baby gators…They aren’t built to swallow chicken bones. They can choke or be impaled internally.
A woman approached the garbage can and yelled at the bird, waving her arms at it as if the bird was the nuisance. She piled her garbage on the over flowing mound and walked away. Most of it stayed in the container. Until someone recognizes the problem a simple garbage can is causing, it will remain an attractive nuisance to wildlife.
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