Football to vegetables: Why garden netting endangers wildlife

Vegetable patches to football nets: Why netting endangers wildlife


A guest blog by Inspector Geoff Edmond.

Many of us enjoy exercise and playing sports and it's great that we can get outside and do this now that the pandemic is starting to ease. If you play sports that use nets like many of us do - how often do we consider that these could inadvertently become a hazard to wildlife when not in use?

The reality is that sports nettings left unattended can indeed be extremely dangerous to wildlife. In fact, our rescue team here at the RSPCA are far too regularly called out to deal with incidents of animals trapped in nets.

We often don't think about wildlife being active for 24 hours a day with nocturnal animals being active while we are asleep. The reality is that garden netting can be a common and unexpected hazard when it comes to these wandering wildlife creatures.

Last year we received 2,280 calls about animals in netting

RSPCA officers get called out to rescue animals such as foxes, hedgehogs, badgers and deer who have become entangled in sports netting that has been left out overnight.

In other cases, poor animals have become attached to goal nets after games have finished and players have long left the pitch celebrating or commiserating.

During the hours of quiet darkness, these species in particular are out looking for food using their senses of smell and hearing as well as sight to look for food. It's very likely that they simply don't see the netting until it's too late - having walked into it and quickly become entangled.

Fox cubs have been known to strangle themselves to death

Once trapped, most animals will start to panic and try to free themselves. Frequently when they do this, it sadly only has the effect of making the entrapment worse as they become more and more entangled, often until they become exhausted.

In some instances, fox cubs have been known to strangle themselves to death. When an RSPCA officer arrives at the scene, it's usually in the hours of daylight where they find a poor animal has got themselves into quite a mess. Sadly, netting can quickly cut off blood supply to the limbs.

Hopefully, we're able to cut and remove the netting to free the animal from its distress. However, it is likely that the poor animal will have suffered injuries and require veterinary treatment.

The fact is, all of this pain, distress or worse could be easily avoided by humans packing away their sporting equipment when finished.

Read more: Learn more about how we are protecting wildlife.

It isn't only sports nettings that can be dangerous...

Netting in our gardens and allotments used to protect fruit and vegetables can also create a surprising hazard, particularly to hedgehogs when placed on or near ground level.

Netting in these situations and similarly, when placed over ponds, is more difficult to remove temporarily. In these situations, we recommend looking at the use of alternatives such as using solid mesh or fixed frames to remove the risk of loose netting in which wildlife can become all too entangled.

Many people simply do not realise how dangerous netting is to animals and so we desperately want to raise awareness and hopefully stop animals from being injured - sometimes fatally - after getting caught up in netting.

So let us all make a personal pledge to take our nets down when we have finished our sporting activities and store them safely in a hazard-free space. It doesn't take long and by adopting this simple habit, your time can really help save animals' lives. Helping animals isn't something we can do alone - it takes all of us.

Read more: How to help trapped birds.

Other ways you can help wildlife

Find out more about animals in the wild.

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