The Blog Aquatic » entanglement News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 What To Do When You See an Entangled Animal: Part II Mon, 16 Jul 2012 22:08:33 +0000 Carmen Yeung

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.


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How to help an injured animal Mon, 09 Jul 2012 20:15:17 +0000 Carmen Yeung

Note: After receiving questions from readers, I have written a follow-up post here.

While on vacation, I came across a crab entangled in a fishing net at a local, beachside restaurant.  My time working with crustaceans in science laboratories and in the field gave me the necessary familiarity with their movements and behaviors to handle the animal without hurting it or myself. Armed with this knowledge, I quickly and carefully untangled the piece of fishing net that had wound up tightly on the crab and placed him gently back on the local beach.

Without the proper qualifications, attempting to help a hurt animal in the wild could result in further injury. So what should you do if you encounter an entangled animal at the beach?

In cases of marine crustaceans, I wouldn’t recommend picking up a live crab because it’s still a wild animal and you don’t have to be a biologist to know those pinches hurt. The best way to help them is to reduce the chances of entanglement by keeping trash off the beach. If a crab or other small animal is no longer alive (and it doesn’t gross you out), consider disposing of the garbage entangling the animal to protect larger scavengers (such as seabirds) from suffering a similar fate at mealtime.

If you see a sick, injured, or dead marine mammal or sea turtle, please report the animal by calling a stranding center nearest you. Do not touch or move the animal because you could further injure the animal and also hurt yourself. Keep other people and pets at least 50 feet away from the animal because getting too close could stress the animal. Check out The Marine Mammal Center’s seven steps to help a stranded marine mammal for more information.

Many animal injuries are preventable. Most importantly, you and I have the power to reduce those injuries. As the summer rolls on, remember to properly dispose trash (including fishing lines), admire wildlife from a safe distance and enjoy the water!

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