Animals Tangled in Netting, Fencing or Line

This article covers animals caught up at ground level. For advice about birds in elevated netting please click here.

Becoming tangled in line or netting can cause serious injuries to wildlife. It is very tempting when faced with this scenario to want to save the animal yourself by simply cutting it free. But there are several good reasons why you should not do this. In this scenario you will almost always need to seek help from a wildlife rescue to ensure any resulting injuries and complications are properly treated.


Animals trapped in netting or fencing #

A trapped animal will be extremely frightened and will view your approach not as help but as a threat. They will try to defend themselves and if the victim is a fox, badger, deer, or swan, for example, it could cause you serious injury. These animals should only be handled by experienced rescuers with specialist equipment. If the casualty is a smaller, less dangerous type and you’re able to, cover them with a towel to keep them calm and cut them free with a good few inches of the netting left attached. Do not attempt to remove the netting from the animal yourself unless absolutely necessary, for example, if it’s restricting the animal’s breathing.

The animal should then go to rescue to have the material carefully removed. It is very important that you do not just release them – if trapped for some time, they may be dehydrated, malnourished, exhausted, suffering from shock, hypothermia, or heat stroke. They may need a chance to rest and recuperate before being made to face the challenges of life in the wild again. Constriction by netting, fencing, or line can cause significant injuries and lasting damage due to the loss of blood supply to the affected area. It is therefore vital that every animal trapped in this way is assessed and treated by an experienced wildlife rehabilitator.


Animals tangled in fishing line, hair or string #

All of these materials commonly get wrapped round birds’ feet, cutting off the circulation and causing infection, necrosis and amputations.

Left in the water, fishing line is easily mistaken for weed and swallowed by waterfowl. It’s worth noting though that just as a bird can get weed and line mixed up so can you. Try to check that what you’re seeing really is line and not just a harmless bit of pond weed. If in doubt, seek assistance from a rescue and do not try to capture the bird yourself. NEVER try to remove fishing line yourself especially from the mouth. There may be a hook on the other end which could cause serious lasting damage so the bird should be assessed and treated at a wildlife rescue.

The most likely bird to be affected by hair or string around their feet is the pigeon, though other birds who spend time around humans can also be afflicted. Birds whose feet are affected can be difficult to help as their their ability to fly is often unaffected. You can try setting a home-made trap for them as detailed here. Once caught, please avoid the temptation to remove the material yourself and pass the bird to a rescue for assessment and care.

Finding Help #

You can find details of rescues in your area by searching our directory. If you're unsure whether to intervene or you have difficulty finding a rescue who can help, we have information about sources of bespoke help. We also have articles with detailed, practical advice about capturing an animal, providing short term care, contacting a wildlife rescue, and getting the animal to them.

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Updated on May 6, 2024