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What To Do When You See an Entangled Animal: Part II

Posted On July 16, 2012 by

Though your first instinct may be to try and free a marine mammal or sea turtle, entanglement experts strongly urge you to resist this understandably natural impulse. Credit: Fort Meyers Beach Government

This is a follow-up to my original post about helping entangled animals. Readers requested more information about why you shouldn’t try to disentangle marine mammals, as well as more information about helping crustaceans and other smaller animals.

Why shouldn’t I try to help an entangled mammal or sea turtle?

Though your first instinct may be to try and free a marine mammal or sea turtle, entanglement experts strongly urge you to resist this understandably natural impulse because a person without training can seriously hurt both himself and the animal. For example, approaching an entangled seal might scare it back into the water, where it might end up drowning. Also, even if you successfully remove debris from, say, a dolphin, it could have an infection resulting from wounds and may require professional medical attention. In this case, prematurely releasing the animal back into the ocean will endanger its life. Also, many of these animals are strong, heavy, and unpredictable, which is why calling a stranding center nearest you is the best way you can help an animal. 

OK, but what about something like a crab? Can you give me tips for helping smaller and less dangerous animals?

If you find a crab entangled in a piece of debris such as a fishing net, you first need to get a good hold of the critter without getting pinched. To pick up a medium size crab, pick up the crab from behind, grabbing it at the base of its swimming leg where it connects to the main body. Hold it so that your thumb is on top of the joint and your index finger is curled underneath. For a smaller crab, gently pinch the top and bottom with your thumb and index finger.

After getting a firm hold of the crab, carefully cut away the debris that is entangling it. Do not pull the material since you could end up pulling and injuring a leg. After cutting away most of the material, carefully and gently remove the remaining bits to free the crab.

Remember to always pay attention to the crab since a pinch can be very painful and could result in a bacterial infection.

How can I help reduce the chances of an animal entanglement?

Whether you are strolling on the beach or simply walking down the street, you can help protect our ocean by disposing of trash properly and prevent the wind or rain from carrying your trash into a body of water.

Decreasing your amount of waste and ensuring that it is disposed of properly can reduce marine debris. Recycling and reusing can significantly decrease the amount of litter reaching marine and coastal waters. There are simple things you can do every day to minimize your impact on ocean trash:

  • Be sure to properly dispose of fishing lines and lures, because animals might mistake them for food if they end up in the water.
  • Avoid using helium balloons since they often end up the water, which animals once again, might think is food. A belly fully of garbage could cause an animal to starve to death.
  • Bring your own reusable shopping bags whenever you shop. This minimizes the amount of waste you produce since you’re not using plastic bags.
  • Always recycle as much as you can. Take advantage of recycling centers and stations.