EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – A yellow-billed loon is a bird that is a rare sight in El Paso, but was spotted at Ascarate Park earlier in May with a fishing line wrapped around it.
Lois Balin, urban biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said the loon visited the Borderland for the first time ever since it usually resides in the cold Arctic climate.
A group of birdwatchers spotted the loon and stopped to admire before realizing it was wrapped in some fishing line and hooks, said Balin.
“That’s when they called me and we organized a night boat rescue,” she explained.
After catching the young loon, Balin said they brought him to the El Paso Zoo’s surgeon who unwrapped the fishing line, but also found more concerning injuries during an x-ray exam.
“And it turned out [the loon] had to stay for quite a while because in the x-ray they found all kinds of fishing line and hooks and sinkers in its stomach,” explained Balin.
She said that many fishers at Ascarate are not aware of how rocky the bottom is, which often causes their fishing lines to get stuck and cut off.
The remaining strings and hooks stay in the water and often wrap around the birds, which can cause them serious injuries and even death.
However, Balin says there are some solutions for this problem.
“They can use use these plastic inflatable floats that you can fill with water, it will go ahead and sink, and it isn’t going to get caught in the rocks,” she suggested.
To prevent these accidents from happening she warned people to use proper fishing equipment and dispose of the remaining fishing lines and hooks to a proper trash bin.
She also advocates against feeding the birds with bread and snacks which can be harmful for their digestive system.
The yellow-billed loon was brought to health and released into the wild on Sunday, Balin said.
She hopes that this loon’s story will serve as a reminder to keep our parks clean and our wildlife safe.