Stags found tangled in fishing gear, pollution on Scottish nature preserve

The Scottish National Heritage has released a series of troubling photos in an effort to inform the public of the troubling effects of pollution on local wildlife.

“Most of us have seen upsetting images of turtles, whales, dolphins or seabirds entangled with plastics or discarded fishing gear. Perhaps less well known is the tragic effect that marine litter can have on land mammals when it washes up on our beaches,” the SNH wrote in a blog post.

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Along with the post, the organization shared photos — taken over the last year — from the Rum National Nature Reserve on the Scottish island of Rum, one of which showed two stags who died when their antlers became entangled in the same discarded fishing line, while another showed a live stag with its antlers entwined with some old rope and a buoy.

stag waste snh

A photo shows two dead deer who presumably perished when their antlers became tangled in fishing line.  (Scottish National Heritage)

The SNH also wrote about finding another dead deer, this one entangled with a fishing line that was already attached to a previously deceased deer skull, presumably belonging to an animal that had died after getting itself wrapped up in the line.

“Who knows, had we not removed it, the rope may have one day claimed a third victim,” SNH writes.

Even small pieces of trash, such as a short length of rope or a piece of netting, can attach itself and “rub” into the animal’s skin, “causing an open wound, and the afflicted animal will die from an infection,” according to the organization.

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The SNH shared its findings and photographs in order to highlight what they perceive not only a as a problem with marine waste in Scotland, but as a “huge international problem.”

stag waste snh

The Scotland National Heritage is now urging beach-goers to pick up any marine waste they find along the coast.  (Scotland National Heritage)

“But small actions can make a big difference, and everyone has a part to play,” said Lesley Watt, a reserve manager on Rum National Nature Reserve for SNH, according to the BBC.

To that end, the SNH is urging anyone “walking on the coastline” to pick up any discarded items that may pose threats to wildlife, or get involved with larger-scale coastline cleanup initiatives across Scotland.

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The SNH further announced its commitment to plastic straws and disposable plastics within the organization — an initiative that is already gaining momentum in Stateside cities such as Malibu, Miami Beach and Seattle.

"If you use your own bag for life when shopping, or take litter home after a day at the beach, you could help save an animal's life,” said Watt.