Helping human hand frees tangled osprey

Fishing line snagged bird; wildlife officials praise action


The Grays family photographed this osprey after Sarah Grays freed it from a fishing line. It flew away moments after the picture was taken. Enlarge photo

Courtesy of Sarah Grays

The Grays family photographed this osprey after Sarah Grays freed it from a fishing line. It flew away moments after the picture was taken.

A registered nurse visiting from California used her skill Friday to free a young osprey tangled in fishing line.

Sarah Grays, her husband, Mark Grays, also a registered nurse, their son, DeMarco, 14, and her father, Ed Hogenson, were kayaking and fishing on Lake Haviland.

They were paddling quietly toward the shore to get a better view of an osprey on a log when they noticed the bird’s plight.

The bird was completely immobilized.

“It was tangled, literally, hook, line and sinker,” Sarah Grays said. “A hook was snagged in the top of the left wing; a tuft of feathers on the same wing was caught in fish line, which also wrapped around its legs and tail and, finally, the log.”

Grays put her jacket over the bird’s head to calm it and then spent 20 minutes with fingernail clippers and needle-nosed pliers snipping the restraints.

All the while an osprey in a nearby snag and one in flight called out.

“When I was done, I put a kayak paddle at its feet to step on and lifted it onto a log,” Grays said. “The bird seemed stunned at first but then it gathered its wits and began checking its moving parts.”

When it decided it was free to go, the osprey took flight and joined the others.

“I felt so badly,” Grays said. “I wish people would pick up their things.”

Right on, said Joe Lewandowski, a spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

“If people used their head, she wouldn’t have had to go to the trouble,” Lewandowski said. “But we see this every year. In fact, a lot of wildlife gets caught up like this.”

People who don’t have the confidence to do what Grays did can call a campground host or Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Lewandowski said. Immediate response can’t be guaranteed though, he said.

“In this case, she did the right thing,” Lewandowski said. “We congratulate the woman.”

The osprey is a large predator – 24 inches in length with a wing span of up to 6feet and a weight of 4.5 pounds.

Variations of the species, which lives almost exclusively on fish, is found on every continent except Antarctica. The osprey and the owl are the only avian predators that can reverse their outer toe in order to use two toes forward and two behind.

daler@durangoherald.com

Comments » Read and share your thoughts on this story