All tangled up - is your yard safe for wildlife? - BC SPCA
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All tangled up – is your yard safe for wildlife?

November 22, 2021

Wild animals have a lot to worry about – from food, shelter and staying away from predators, to all kinds of hazards from humans. It’s not uncommon for wild animals to get stuck in things we throw away, or things that get left in their environment. Especially in the fall and winter, there are a few common examples that Wild ARC receives calls about.

Fake spiderwebs or fake snow are fun ways to decorate your house for the holidays – but some decorations are downright scary for our wild neighbours! Fake spiderwebs and fake snow are often stretched across bushes, trees and windows outdoors. Unfortunately, birds and other animals getting stuck isn’t uncommon. Keep fake snow and spider webs inside where birds can’t get stuck. Or, get creative with other kinds of decorations!

Black-capped chickadee looking at fake spiderweb on bush
Chickadee photo by Penny Colton

If you do find a trapped bird, don’t pull on the bird directly because this can cause further injury to their delicate feathers and wings. Instead, cut the webbing around the entangled area to free the bird and then take them to the nearest wildlife rehabilitator for assessment. You can always call the BC SPCA’s Animal Helpline at 1-855-622-7722 for advice or for help finding a local wildlife rehabilitator.

Mid-October to December is the annual mating or ‘rutting’ season for deer.  During rutting season, you might see deer rubbing their antlers on trees, scraping the ground with their hooves, or see deer “pushing” each other around. As the deer bucks rub their antlers on trees and bushes, they might accidentally get tangled in Christmas lights, garden netting, or other low-hanging strings.

Take a look around your yard to make sure it’s safe for wildlife and free from items that could get tangled in deer antlers. Hang your Christmas lights high up to avoid an antler tangle.

Two deer touching heads
Photo credit: Debbie Thiessen

If the material is tangled only in the antlers, the situation will often resolve on its own when the deer shed the velvet from their antlers at the end of the season. However, the deer may need help if the material gets caught and restricts their movement, or tightens around their neck.

If you see an adult deer stuck and they can’t move, call the Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277; they may be able to sedate and free them. If the deer is still able to move around, this may not be possible with people and traffic in the area. Sedating a deer can be startling and painful for the deer, causing them to run off or bolt into traffic, which may in turn cause an accident or further injury to themselves before the sedative has time to take effect.

Unfortunately, wildlife rehabilitators can’t often help injured adult deer, as they are too high-stress to keep in a captive setting. Even when injured, they can be very dangerous because of their size and strength. Contact the Conservation Officer Service for any issues involving adult deer.

Barred owl with a green cast on their foot
Barred owl in care at Wild ARC

It’s not uncommon for Wild ARC to receive calls about all kinds of entanglements. From animals caught in netting or wire, to birds swallowing fish hooks attached to a line, Wild ARC rehabilitators have seen it all! This barred owl came into care recently after their talons were badly tangled in loose netting.

If you find an animal stuck in netting, plastic drink rings, or having swallowed fishing line, call our Animal Helpline to find a wildlife rehabilitator right away. Don’t try to remove anything or free the animal by yourself – you might actually cause more harm than help. Swallowed or embedded fish hooks may appear removed on the outside, but inside, anything that remains can result in severe injury. If feet or paws get tangled, the loss of blood flow can quickly cause injury. Even an hour is a long time for a little paw! Always get advice from a rehabilitator before trying to cut an animal loose.