The RSPCA are highlighting the danger discarded fishing litter can have on wildlife following the death of a cygnet in North East England.
The young swan suffered a torn oesophagus after a fishing hook became embedded in his neck at Hilton Lakes in Yarm in Stockton-on-Tees.
RSPCA deputy chief inspector John Lawson was called to the area after being alerted by a member of the public, before taking the cygnet to the Jacqui Paterson Veterinary Centre for urgent treatment.
The hook had left the cygnet with an open wound the size of a 20 pence piece and caused such irreparable damage that the vet made the decision to put the bird to sleep to prevent further suffering.
Nearly 50% (1,510) of all litter-related calls to the RSPCA last year were about animals that had specifically become caught in fishing litter.
Speaking about the incident, John said: “I could see straight away that the hook had caused a large, nasty-looking injury on the side of the cygnet’s neck, and unfortunately, upon closer veterinary examination, the hook was found to have torn the oesophagus.“This cygnet was one of several offspring to a pair of swans at this lake so it’s vitally important that people who fish in this area clean up responsibly if we are to avoid similar incidents in the future.
“Most anglers do this and are thankfully responsible, but fishing litter is still a major problem and it can be so damaging to wildlife. Carelessly discarded fishing line, hooks and netting can cause terrible injuries, as this incident illustrates, and water birds are particularly vulnerable.
“We strongly urge those who enjoy fishing to be extra cautious to make sure nothing is left behind. It only takes one piece of snagged line to get caught up in a tree or dropped near the water to cause potential catastrophe for wildlife.”