Land and Sea Clean-up | Making a Difference…..

The 1st Annual Land and Sea Clean-up for a Litter Free Florida | by Doreen S. Damm…..



What happens when you get a bunch of like-minded animal rescuers talking about the cases where everyday trash was the culprit? They plan a Volunteer Clean-up! That is how the 1st Annual Land and Sea Clean-up was born. Inspired by the countless animals rescued from entanglement in fishing lines, plastic and other litter. Partnering with our friends at Seaside Seabird Sanctuary, Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife volunteers set out to make a difference in their own backyards.


seaside 3

Kyle Michels | These little rings left behind from plastic bottle tops are death sentences to birds that hunt with their bills, often ending up halfway up their bill making it impossible for them to open their mouths to eat or drink, and they don’t just fall off.

One group walked the beach behind Seaside Seabird Sanctuary on Indians Shores, finding the usual litter you come to expect on our beaches. Some left behind by the public enjoying a day of sand, sun and surf and some washed up on shore from various sources.



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The other group took on the task of picking litter in the gated community of Owl’s Nest head quarters common areas, a place you would not expect to find much debris. Surprisingly so, over 25 bags, three tires, construction materials and a patio chair later, we realized litter wasn’t just trash tossed out a car window or left behind after a picnic in the park but incidental trash that could be found anywhere.

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More often then not, litter is not intentional. No one wakes up in the morning and says to themselves….. where can I leave my trash behind me today – or – how many fishing lines can I get tangled in one day? It is more a secondary action then premeditated, and there are several sources of litter that we don’t even think about but that could be prevented.


raccoon peanut butter a

Just this year we rescued a raccoon up a tree with a peanut butter jar stuck on its head and a fox with its head inside a mayonnaise jar, all the way to it’s neck.

The many Florida storms we have can pick up and blow debris miles away. Simply tying a knot in our trash bags before putting them into the can and securing the lid can prevent a lot of loose materials from blowing away into the environment. We can look around our homes for materials left out from unfinished projects, and putting them away so they don’t become hazards for our wildlife. While convenient, don’t toss trash into that park, gas station or shopping centers open trash container where they can easily become displaced. Instead, find a trash receptacle with a lid or take it home where you know it will not become a wildlife hazard. Open dumpsters behind businesses and on construction sites, as well as flat beds of trucks and trailers make litter bugs of people that had the best intentions. Debris can be blown out from what was thought to be a contained area creating litter.


mark smith photography_osprey with sailcat hooked

This Sailcat was most likely cut loose being an undesirable catch. The Osprey may avoid the head but the discarded carcass is still a hazard to scavenger animals that might want a free meal. | Photo by Mark Smith Photography

Florida is known for its fishing with salt water flats and fishing piers, lakes and ponds brimming with fishing waiting to be dinner. In our quest for a day’s catch, lines get tangled, hooks get lodged and unwanted catches leave some fishermen making the choice to cut their lines leaving behind a web of entanglements for our seabirds, sea life and wildlife.

geff bourke_fishing line in branches

Fishing line tangled in branches is a very common site and a big problem for our wildlife | Photo by Geff Bourke

As a small child being raised in a rural area, we had one main road that connected our neighborhood to the highway. Every weekend my mom would load me up in my brothers Radio Flyer Red Wagon and the three of us would venture out along the roadway and pickup litter until the wagon was full. This instilled in me a sense of responsibility to the environment which in turn I share with friends and my family today. I don’t think of trash as what others tossed away, but as what I can pick up to protect the wildlife I so love. My husband and I walk the parks several days a week and I am forever picking up little bits of glass that can cut the feet of our four-legged friends, pieces of plastic that can be ingested or entangled, wires, ropes and fishing line that snag our birds, reptiles and mammals. I feel it is my privilege to do my part and hope that my actions encourage others to feel empowered to do the same.

terrell havling_ahinga with rope

Plastic Bottle tops, fishing line and rope are commonly found snagged on birds that use their bills to hunt for food. The backward bards on this Ahingia’s bill which holds on to the fish it spears also holds on to debris. If not rescued, this rope can result in a slow death as the bird staves.   Photo by Terrell Havling


So, what can you do?

The obvious thing is to reduce and contain your own debris but there are other ways to help or wildlife.

When in a public place, pick up litter and toss it in a near-by trash receptacle, preferably one with a closed lid.

Take a small bag with you on walks and jogs so you can pick up as you enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors. Be safe and smart when picking up objects with your bare hands.

Volunteer when you see an organized clean-up in your area. Surrounding your self with like minded people makes picking up litter fun. You’ll be helping wildlife and might even make a few new friends.

Adopt a road. It is good exercise and you can do a road in your neighborhood or go big and sign up at one of our county beautification programs. Remember, if you are in a HOA community, get permission before you organize a neighborhood clean-up.






We want to thank everyone who participated in our 1st Annual Land and Sea Clean-up and for all our followers for their support. It was a great day and we are already looking forward to next year’s event.

If you happen to find any wildlife in trouble, please report it to Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife, a Federally and State Permitted Rehabilitation & Non-Profit Organization. The fastest way to reach us is by texting (813) 598-5926 and we will dispatch a volunteer as soon as possible. 

Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife                PPDonateButton_4May2017

There are several ways you can be a part of caring for our injured and orphaned wildlife. As a non-profit, monetary donations and supplies are always appreciated. 100% of all gifts go directly to animal care.

Enjoy wildlife, make sure to sign up for our Blog/Newsletter and to stay up to date on our cases, you can follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and subscribe to our YouTube Channel. You can also tune into Live Cams, check our web page to see when one is in operation. 

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