Concerns rise after animals photographed dead, entangled in fishing line

(Source: Dale Vanderheyden)
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HENRICO, VA (WWBT) -- A Henrico photographer wants to raise awareness after some photos she took at the University of Richmond (UR) campus showed animals entangled in fishing line, some of them dead.

Dale Vanderheyden takes photos on a daily basis at Westhampton Lake on the UR campus.

“I feel like I’m in heaven,” Vanderheyden said. “I just love coming down here. Obviously, it’s a real spiritual thing to be out here with nature."

However, last week, she captured some images that had her on the verge of tears.

"I saw an owl and not just an owl, but a Great Horned Owl, which is a real special, gorgeous owl, dead in the water,” she said.

It was while editing her photos at home that she discovered what may have killed the bird.

“Its demise was caused by the fishing line,” Vanderheyden said. “It’s an invisible killer.”

Other photos from her collection show a blue heron in mid-flight with a fishing line attached to its leg.

“There’s just way too much of the fishing line caught up in the trees and the lores,” she added. “It’s really dangerous to the wildlife here.”

UR spokeswoman Cynthia Price said they’re aware of Vanderheyden’s concerns.

“She contacted us and our facilities team about the owl,” Price said. “We had our landscaping team go out there and remove any fishing line and netting we saw.”

Price added the landscaping teams goes out on a regular basis to make sure debris like this stays out of the lake.

“We take care of the lake as much as we can,” Price said. “We’re asking the community to take care of it as well by cleaning up after themselves.”

Vanderheyden would like to see signs placed around the lake asking people to clean up and take their fishing equipment with them, including the wires.

Price said there are signs placed around the lake, but couldn’t recall what they said.

“Even recycling bins would help,” Vanderheyden said.

Every summer, the university does a “comprehensive cleaning” of the lake to ensure all debris is eliminated, according to Price.

The general public is allowed on the campus to walk the nature trails and access the lake; you must have a valid fishing license to fish there.

Vanderheyden added these kinds of issues happen in other areas across Richmond, especially along the James River and encourages people to be aware of what trash and other debris can do to wildlife.

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