Our Waste, Their Home

Raccoon in tree

Spring is a Busy Time for Migration and Breeding

While we’re staying home, ecologists are starting to see wildlife benefit. Let’s do our part to help them thrive– don’t be a litter bug.

Litter is not only bad for the environment, but negatively impacts creatures big and small, on land, water and even in the sky. Garbage harms wildlife health, habitats and quality of life.

1. Ingestion

Squirrel with garbage in its mouth
Squirrel with garbage in its mouth.

Nobody likes a bellyache including our animal friends! Plastic causes many health problems for wildlife. It blocks their stomachs and intestines since they can’t break down plastic in their digestive system. This can cause illness or death.

How you can help: Keep our communities clean so that there’s less litter for wildlife to access. During the COVID-19 pandemic please dispose of plastic gloves and masks responsibly.

2. Physical Harm

Duck with plastic around its neck.
Duck with plastic around its neck.

Animals can get tangled in pieces of plastic causing them to suffocate, starve or drown. Getting stuck also makes it easier for predators to catch them. Plastic can constrict an animal’s movement, causing exhaustion. Sometimes they even develop an infection from wounds caused by material wrapped around them.

How you can help: Cut apart all sections of plastic six-pack rings, including the inner diamonds. Dispose of cans responsibly- rinse and crush them before recycling. You can also fold the tab back to block off the hole on the top.

3. Habitat Disturbance

Gray Catbird using plastic debris as nesting material.
Gray Catbird using plastic debris as nesting material.

It’s easy for wildlife to mistake waste for natural materials. In some cases, birds weave plastic into the structure of their nest. This can lead to entanglement and make the nest detectable to predators which can impact chick development and survival.

What should you do if you come across a nest with plastic in it?

Your instinct may be to pull it out, but it’s best not to touch the nest. The waste might also be holding part of the nest together. Removing it could destroy or damage the nest structure. Many bird nests are protected under the Migratory Bird Act and should not be tampered with.

How you can help: When shopping, choose paper bags or take your own reusable bags. Make sure your plastic items make it to the recycling bin and don’t blow away in the wind.

4. Waste Attracts Animals to Roadways

Have you ever tossed an apple core, banana peel, or other food item out of your car, thinking it’s biodegradable?  You may be doing more harm to wildlife than you realize.

Animals have an amazing sense of sight and smell which can draw them to litter in search of food. Litter along roadways can lead to roadkill causing a chain reaction. Other animals may then come to the road to eat perished wildlife.

How you can help: Although we may not be going too far right now, remember to never throw anything out the window along the road – even if it’s biodegradable.

Help keep our communities free of litter. Recycle and dispose of your garbage responsibly.

By CVC’s Meagan Ruffini, Marketing and Communications Associate

Feature photo by CVC’s Jon Clayton

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