People decorating their yards with synthetic cobwebs for Halloween should watch out for birds that could get tangled in the stringy fibre.

Wildlife centres in the United States are warning about the danger to migrating song birds and small raptors as Halloween approaches.

Carol Kelly, executive director at Medicine River Wildlife Centre, said while no injured birds have been brought to the central Alberta wildlife hospital because of fake cobwebs, that doesn’t mean local birds are not injured.

She said many songbirds have gone south, but some species remain.

“Chickadees are stashing seeds like crazy. They stash hundreds, thousands, of seeds getting ready for winter. Everybody that stays here in the winter is preparing and getting ready,” Kelly said.

She said birds do caught in the fine netting that some people use in the summer to cover their fruit bushes to stop birds from eating the berries. 

Todd Nivens, executive director of the Waskasoo Environmental Education Society, said the cobwebs are a potential issue for local birds.

“There are some people who have Halloween decorations out at the end of September,” Nivens said.

“I could see that absolutely being a problem. Is it something that regularly happens up here? I don’t know. We’ve never had a bird brought into the nature centre that was injured getting caught up in something. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.”

He said ornithologists, who study bird populations, use netting to catch and band birds, but their netting is constantly monitored. Synthetic spider webs put up for Halloween are not monitored.

He said there may be fewer birds at risk in central Alberta, but raising awareness is always helpful.

Kelly said recent education campaigns to protect wildlife have made a difference. The wildlife centre had fewer calls after a spring campaign to remind people with RVs to check for bird nests in holes in their vehicles, and to stuff the holes with steel wool to prevent future nests. There was also a drop in the number of waterfowl tangled in fishing line after a campaign reminded fishers to clean up their fishing line.

“Education is the key, it really is. People don’t mean to hurt anything generally. Once they realize their activity is hurting something, it’s something a lot of people are willing to correct.”

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birdsHalloweenKerry Wood Nature CentreMedicine River Wildlife Centre

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