LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — Rawlinsville Fire Department in Lancaster County responded to an emergency rescue call Wednesday afternoon. In need of help, an osprey that was hanging halfway down the Norman Wood Bridge, with a wing tangled in fishing line.
The bridge carries Route 372 across the Susquehanna River. It’s 175 feet high. A strange place for a fishing line.
“How did it get caught there?” asks Wayne Riddell of the fire department. “When you see the line, the fishing line went basically parallel to the bridge just halfway down.”
Rich Furman, Deputy 58 with the department, rappelled down to the entangled bird. For a few minutes, it looked like they might be able to cut the line and safely lower the bird to the ground. But then, the osprey was able to free itself and flew away. At least, it tried to. It ended up coasting down to a landing–right in the river. The fire department now had a water rescue on its hands.
“We jumped in a vehicle,” says Riddell, “Went down below on the bottom, we changed into our water rescue gear and went out to go retrieve the bird.” Riddell carried the bird to a waiting game warden and put it in a carrier.
The osprey was rushed to Raven Ridge Wildlife Center, where rehabber Tracie Young checked the bird for injuries. She’s seen a lot of animals seriously injured by discarded fishing lines.
“It’s just very important to be aware, even if you’re not a fisherman, if you see fishing line out in the environment, just take a couple of extra steps to take it down to properly dispose of it, because you could be saving the life of another animal,” Tracie said.
“Luckily the fishing line was only wrapped around the feathers,” says Tracie. “So we were able to cut that loose, do a full exam, there was no injury done to the wing, we administered fluids, pain medicine, because of the swelling and hanging that long.”
Since the osprey wasn’t seriously injured, Tracie wanted to release it as soon as possible.
“They are highly stressed in captivity, we were able to give him a nice rest, with the pain medicine, this morning he was definitely ready to go.”
There was another reason to get the bird back in the wild.
“The game commission did state that there was a mate flying around with it, so we needed to get this bird back to this area as soon as possible, because of the possibility of a nest.”
That also meant releasing the bird somewhere reasonably close to where it was found. Tracie took the osprey to the Muddy Creek Boat Access, about half a mile south of the bridge. There, Tracie carefully opened the carrier, and the bird hopped out.
The osprey looked a little confused at first, but it didn’t take long for it to get its bearings and take wing. It flew off with strong wing beats, with no sign it had been hanging by a wing wrapped in fishing line less than a day earlier.
“It was amazing how all these different organizations came together to save this bird.” said Tracie.