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WATCH: Dad removes fishing-hook from baby eaglet’s mouth on SWFL’s eagle cam

A close-call for SWFL’s famous eagle couple highlights the need for responsible fishing practices
Posted at 10:22 PM, Jan 15, 2024

NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. — Over the weekend, something happened to the baby of one of Southwest Florida’s most famous couples - the eagles of SWFL’s Eagle Cam.

Footage from the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam's Facebook page shows E23, the newest eaglet in the family, displaying signs of distress after eating a fish for breakfast. SWFL Eagle cam says a fish-hook got lodged in the eaglet’s mouth. In an act of parental instinct, as soon as the father eagle, F23, returned to the nest he was able to successfully free the hook.

Pamela DeFouw, Executive Director of the Wildlife Center of Southwest Florida, expressed her concern over this incident. “We're actually getting about three to four birds a day - especially pelicans right now - that we have to remove fishing line and hooks that constrict them and cause injury. So, it’s a daily basis,” she added.

DeFouw warns that any fish-eating bird, including eaglets, can be injured by fishing hooks and gear. She says that this often happens when eaglets are fed fish with hooks in them. So, she gave some advice to people out fishing.

“Keep the bait fish in their proper containers. Sometimes fisherman have like three or four fishing poles going on, and we just want to make sure if there’s a fishing pole not being used that a fish isn’t on there just dangling. Because birds - all they see is food,” explained DeFouw.

Additionally, DeFouw recommends never cutting a line with a fish on it, and always disposing of fishing line properly. Emphasizing the seriousness of these incidents, DeFouw explains that if a bird swallows a fish-hook, it could be deadly.

“It becomes very problematic because you have a hook going through their digestive system, which can perforate something and cause a lot more damage,” said DeFouw.

The Wildlife Center's director urges people to be vigilant and responsible, and to give a local wildlife rehab center a call if you notice a bird injured by fishing gear.

"As a fishing community, we have a responsibility to be aware and discard our trash or anything harmful in a proper way so it doesn’t cause this," she said.