RSPCA warns of dangers of netting to birds and wildlife

The Mute Swan was trapped in netting on a pond in Cheshire before it was rescued. Photo: RSPCA.
The Mute Swan was trapped in netting on a pond in Cheshire before it was rescued. Photo: RSPCA.
The RSPCA has urged people not to use netting to cover plants and ponds after a Mute Swan got tangled in a net covering a large pond in Cheshire.

The animal welfare charity was contacted on 30 January by a man who spotted the swan tangled in netting over the water. RSPCA Animal Welfare Officer (AWO) Steve Wickham attended the scene off Ollershaw Lane in Marston, near Northwich.

“This poor swan had got himself into a real tangle with his legs caught in the netting and had no way of freeing himself,” AWO Wickham explained. “Netting like this is potentially lethal to wild animals and birds. They can end up with life-threatening injuries by getting their legs, wings or beaks tangled in the netting or, if not spotted by anyone who can help free them, they can eventually starve to death.

“Luckily for this bird, myself and a colleague were able to reach him using our water rescue equipment and cut him free. He wasn’t injured and obviously hadn’t been tangled for too long, so we checked him over and then took him to another lake nearby to release him.”

The RSPCA receives hundreds of calls every year to rescue wildlife which has become tangled in netting, football nets or fishing litter. In 2016, the charity received 1,907 calls to these types of rescues, with 31 from Cheshire alone.

“It’s terribly stressful for any wild animal to find themselves entangled in netting or fishing wire and can be very dangerous too,” AWO Wickham added. “It’s also a situation that could be easily avoided. We would urge anyone using netting for sports to remove and store all nets after their game, and put any discarded or old netting safely in a bin. Other forms of garden netting, [such as that for] pond or fruit, can be a real hazard to wild animals like Hedgehogs and birds, and we would recommend replacing them with solid metal mesh.”

RSPCA officers are working to get hold of the people responsible for the water to issue advice on netting.

If you spot an animal which is trapped, in distress, or in need of help, contact the RSPCA’s 24-hour cruelty line on 0300 1234 999.