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Clear Your Gear retrofitted bins with wildlife exclusion devices

By Staff | Oct 4, 2017

Natural Resource Department Conservation Officer Joel Caouette applies a cap to the monofilament bins to help alleviate curious cavity nesters from using the bins to nest. PHOTO PROVIDED

An improvement was added to the Clear Your Gear monofilament bins recently to discourage cavity nesters from using them for a potential nesting site.

CROW Hospital Director Dr. Heather Barron said they had received some reports of cases where woodpeckers were going into the monofilament bins. Early summer, late spring the issue was brought to the forefront.

“We decided that we couldn’t have that. The whole idea is to prevent them from getting into contact with monofilament line. So, for a while we actually shut a couple bins down because it was right in the middle of breeding season,” Barron said.

Bags were put over the bins to let the public know not to use them until they found the best way to retrofit them with wildlife exclusion devices.

She said appropriate cavity nesting sites is harder to find for some species than food and water.

“It’s a resource that is in high demand,” Barron said. “Certain species are luckily very adaptable. We have 25 cavity nesting species here in our area. Some of them are extremely specific. If their particular type of tree isn’t available, like a nesting hole, then they just will not nest. That has really become impactive on some different types of breeding birds. Others are somewhat adaptable and will end up nesting in odd spots, (such as) the down spot on your rain catch system. In our case it looked like they (woodpeckers) were starting to think about the monofilament recycling bins for a potential nesting site. We did not want to take that risk.”

The retrofit were added to the monofilament bins by Natural Resource Department Conservation Officer Joel Caouette.

“I hope it’s going to work really well, so it’s still really convenient and easy for people to put the monofilament line in and definitely should not be attractive to birds in anyway,” Barron said.

She said they did some research and talked to some other people who had the same problem of birds finding the bins attractive for nesting sites. Although the design was not exactly the same, Barron said their design was similar to what Caouette used.

“It has at least been proven to work in other states,” Barron said.

After coming into contact with a similar group out of Texas, Caouette learned about a permanent solution they had to deter captivity nesters. With suggestions offered, he leaned towards a different path to fix the problem.

“We are using PVC pipes, so I contacted a plumbing company and they have these quick caps. They are rubber caps with a hose clamp for easy on and off. They use it to cap sewer pipes,” he said.

Caouette thought why not use the thick rubber and slice a star in the middle of the cap like a garbage disposal, so individuals could easily put their hands in and out.

“Hopefully by the end of next week every bin should be capped,” he said last Thursday. “I think it’s going to be fairly successful. I think this will take care of keeping curious cavity nesters out of the bins.”

On island, there are 22 monofilament bins. The Sanibel Sea School had monofilament bins set up on the Sanibel Causeway and at South Seas Island Resort before the Clear Your Gear campaign came to fruition, which were incorporated into the Clear Your Gear group.

Clear Your Gear is a collaborative effort established in 2014 by CROW, Sanibel Sea School, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society, “Ding” Darling Monofilament Busters, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation and the City of Sanibel Natural Resource Department. In the first two years more than 25 miles of monofilament line was collected.

“It’s definitely an ongoing project that we all definitely have to put some ongoing effort into all of the time. I am very grateful to have my Clear Your Gear team members who all work really hard to make it work. Everybody, as soon as we realized this was a problem, stepped up and immediately did the research and tried to find out what the alternatives were to make sure we don’t cause more problems for wildlife than we are solving,” Barron said.

Although Barron does her end of year patient stats in December, she believes subjectively they are seeing less patients affected by monofilament line.

“You really do want to recycle that stuff because it takes five to 600 years for it to dissolve in the environment. I am not keen on the idea of lots of plastic in the environment. I’m really glad that people are making a conscious decision to recycle,” she said. “Throwing it in the trash is great because you got it out of the wild, but it still doesn’t go away. It’s going to sit in a landfill somewhere and again potentially be a problem for wildlife.”

Recycling the plastic is key, Barron explained because plastics have a lot of different chemicals that can potentially stick around in the environment for a long time. When that happens the plastic gets into the food chain, and oceans.

“There is all kinds of evidence now that plastics are so pervasive in the world that all of us have those chemicals in our bodies from the plastics. They think that is actually damaging for people. As monofilament and other plastics break down they do make these micro plastics, those are ingested and they kind of go up the food chain. We really want to do everything we can to try to get away from plastics in our society. It leaches into our water supply, gets into our food supply, it’s bad for us and bad for wildlife,” she said.

In addition to the length of time it takes for monofilament line to dissolve, it kills wildlife and is visually less appealing when seen on the beaches.

“People come here to the islands expecting to see pristine waterways and wildlife and that is what we need to give them if we are going to to continue to have tourism to be such a solid part of our community and industry here,” Barron said.

There are some very good alternatives, she said that people can use in replacement of monofilament line. Barron encourages individuals to research the more biodegradable options.

For more information, visit Clear Your Gear’s website www.clearyourgear.org.