Hundreds of callouts across Yorkshire to animals affected by litter in 2020

A duck tangled in a medical face mask and a fox with his head caught in an old Cornish pasty wrapper were among more than 3,500 callouts by the RSPCA to animals affected by litter in 2020.

Despite people being in lockdown for many months, the animal charity received more than 10 calls a day about animals affected by discarded rubbish.

Across Yorkshire and Lincolnshire 361 calls were made about litter-affected animals to the RSPCA in the 12-month period.

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The RSPCA has released images of a gannet entangled in plastic and a fox caught in a pastry wrapper to highlight the dangers to wildlife caused by abandoned rubbish. Photo credit: RSPCA

Almost 100 calls were made about animals getting entangled in discarded litter in Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire last year, according to the figures released by the charity.

Nearly 70 were recorded in West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire, with the lowest number recorded in the East Riding of Yorkshire (42).

One of the callouts across the region was for a Canada goose whose neck became tightly entangled in old rope at a canal at Luddenden Foot, in Calderdale.

The panicked cries of the bird and his mate alerted a concerned resident to the plight of the goose on Monday 2 November, last year.

A fox with its head caught in a pasty wrapper Photo credit: RSPCA

Leeds-based animal rescuer RSPCA Inspector Kris Walker said the goose was very fortunate to have a "happy ending".

In total 3,639 calls were made nationally with the highest figures recorded in Greater London (444).

Callouts nationally included a duck tangled in a medical face mask, a baby hedgehog with plastic wrapped around her neck, and a gannet entangled in plastic.

While the animal welfare charity has also released images of a fox caught in a pastry wrapper to highlight the dangers to wildlife caused by abandoned rubbish.

The charity 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.

Wildlife department head Adam Grogan called litter "one of the biggest hazards our wildlife faces today" and called on lockdown walkers to help eliminate it.

He 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 added PPE being used during the coronavirus pandemic then thrown away has made the issue worse.

He said: "The pandemic has just added to the problem with many disposable masks just being 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."

As well as regular rubbish, the RSPCA deals with many animals which have suffered injuries from angling litter like discarded fishing line, hooks and plastic netting.

Nearly 40 per cent (1,510) of all litter-related calls to the RSPCA last year were about animals specifically caught in fishing litter.

These included a seal being strangled by an old fishing net and dozens of swans injured by old fishing hooks or entangled in fishing line.

Mr Grogan 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."

On other types of waste, he added: "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."

In the last two years, the charity has received 8,092 calls about animals injured or caught up in litter.

This spring the RSPCA is encouraging the public to take part in the Great British Spring Clean - a movement to raise awareness about litter's impact on our environment, ecosystems, and wildlife.

As part of the challenge between 28 May and 13 June the RSPCA are on a million mile litter picking mission, and encouraging the public to take part with photographs using #GBSpringClean on social media.

Breakdown of calls about animals affected by litter in 2020


Bedfordshire – 35

Berkshire – 47

Bristol – 26

Buckinghamshire – 41

Cambridgeshire – 62

Cheshire – 89

City of London – 2

Cornwall – 86

Cumbria – 20

Derbyshire – 52

Devon – 160

Dorset – 103

Durham – 27

East Riding of Yorkshire – 42

East Sussex – 133

Essex – 149

Gloucestershire – 62

Greater London – 444

Greater Manchester – 125

Hampshire – 119

Herefordshire – 8

Hertfordshire – 72

Isle of Wight – 9

Kent – 184

Lancashire – 77

Leicestershire – 61

Lincolnshire – 94

Merseyside – 106

Norfolk – 122

North Yorkshire – 92

Northamptonshire – 32

Northumberland – 12

Nottinghamshire – 70

Oxfordshire – 34

Rutland – 2

Shropshire – 26

Somerset – 64

South Yorkshire – 64

Staffordshire – 73

Suffolk – 59

Surrey – 76

Tyne and Wear – 66

Warwickshire – 26

West Midlands – 138

West Sussex – 87

West Yorkshire – 69

Wiltshire – 53

Worcestershire – 39


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