RSPCA called to 59 incidents of animals caught up in litter in Suffolk in 2020 as it urges people to take part in Great British Spring Clean campaign
An animal charity has urged people to clean up after themselves after revealing the number of calls it has taken about wildlife caught up in litter last year.
As a whole, the RSPCA took almost 4,000 (3,874) calls about animals affected by litter in 2020, and in Suffolk specifically, dozens of rubbish-related incidents were reported to the charity.
The figures show that the RSPCA took 59 calls about animals stuck in litter over the last year.
Nationally, the charity received more than 10 calls a day about animals affected by litter, including a duck tangled in a medical face mask; a baby hedgehog with plastic wrapped around her neck; a fox with his head caught in an old Cornish pasty wrapper; and a gannet entangled in plastic.
The RSPCA is urging people to help protect animals by picking up any litter they see lying around as well as ensuring they take their litter home with them or disposing of it properly and responsibly, as part of its Great British Spring Clean campaign.
Head of the RSPCA’s wildlife department Adam Grogan said: “Our staff deal with thousands of incidents every year where animals have been impacted by litter - and they’re the ones that we know of.
"I’m sure for every animal we’re able to help there are many that go unseen, unreported and may even lose their lives."
Mr Grogan said litter was one of the 'biggest hazards' that wildlife faces today - something which he says the pandemic has only added to, with disposable masks ending up discarded on the ground.
"These are a new danger to animals and we’ve been called out to rescue animals like ducks and gulls caught up in the masks’ elastic straps," he added.
"That’s why we’re calling on the public to get involved in the Great British Spring Clean to help remove litter that may endanger animals.”
It is not just everyday rubbish that RSPCA sees affecting animals.
Many arrive into its care with 'terrible' injuries caused by angling litter, such as discarded fishing lines, hooks and plastic netting.
Almost 40 per cent (1,510) of all litter-related calls to the RSPCA last year were about animals that had specifically become caught in fishing litter.
Mr Grogan added said this litter can have serious consequences for wildlife.
He said: “Animals who get their heads or necks stuck in litter can suffer severe injuries as they struggle to break free and can even suffocate, while others will slowly grow weaker and weaker as they try to hunt or find food or water.
“Others will get fishing line or netting cutting deep into their skin, affecting circulation and with wounds becoming seriously infected.
"These hazards can very quickly become a matter of life or death for these animals and action is urgently needed to tackle this problem head-on.
"It’s up to every one of us to do our bit in the war against litter.”
Mr Grogan said while the majority of anglers do dispose of litter properly, it is 'frustrating' that those who don't may not realise how dangerous it is for animals.
"Discarded line in particular is a terrible hazard for wildlife, particularly as it can be almost invisible," he added.
“We strongly urge those who enjoy fishing to be extra cautious to make sure nothing is left behind.
"Most anglers are very responsible when disposing of their litter, but it only takes one piece of snagged line to be left in a tree or dropped near the water to endanger the life of an animal.
"We ask that all those who enjoy fishing to follow the Angling Trust Take 5 campaign and make use of the recycling scheme to dispose of their waste tackle.
“If members of the public see discarded litter we would encourage them to pick it up safely and put it in the bin, remembering to wash their hands after. Their action could save an animal’s life.”
To find out more about the RSPCA, or to donate to their cause, visit www.rspca.org.uk.