Fawn Lake is a Town of Bedford-owned conservation area that includes forested trails around a spring-fed 12-acre pond. The area is a popular spot in town for hiking, birding, canoeing and kayaking, some winter recreation, and fishing.
Eleonora Del Federico has walked or biked to Fawn Lake often (nearly every day in the summer) from her home in Bedford since moving to town last year. She finds littered fishing lines around the shores nearly every visit.
Del Federico and others regularly find fishing line stuck in trees, tangled in bushes, floating in the water with hooks still attached, and in piles along the shore or trails in the popular areas of the pond where people fish (primarily the far eastern and far western sides of the pond).
This summer Del Federico expressed a great deal of concern with the abandoned fishing line endangering the wildlife around Fawn Lake. The abandoned fishing lines endanger “not only ducks or geese, and their babies [in the water], but turtles, beavers, and even birds in the trees which often look for strings to make their nests.”
And this week, Del Federico’s fears came to life. While visiting Fawn Lake on Wednesday, she witnessed a goose with fishing line caught in her mouth.
Del Federico, a chemistry professor, has a history of helping out birds. She previously served as a certified wildlife rehabilitator with the Wild Bird Fund rescuing urban birds in New York City for a decade.
While her experience was with smaller birds, she said for the bird with the fishing line caught in her beak, the best next step “would be to rescue, treat, and release ASAP. This could be done fast if someone trained in removing lines were to come to [Fawn Lake]. But catching a goose, unless very sick may be tricky.”
Geese, ducks, heron, and many other local birds; squirrels, chipmunks, beavers, and other rodents; turtles, frogs, snails, fish, snakes; and rabbits all call Fawn Lake home for a good deal of the year. Coyotes, deer, fox, bear, bobcats, and fisher cats, have all been spotted passing through the Fawn Lake Area. Hikers, dog walkers, elderly, kids commuting to Lane School, and even Bedford’s Superintendent of Schools enjoy the trails and viewing areas around Fawn Lake year round.
Out of concern for the health and safety of all species around the lake, Del Federico is calling for an end to the dropped fishing line.
“The best [option] would be to stop fishing, but if that is not possible, those who fish should be made aware of the consequences of their lines being left. If a line gets caught by a tree, they should ask for help to remove it immediately.”
Line pulled off of rods, as well as hooks and tackle, should be recovered and brought home or recycled. (Lead poisoning has historically been a common cause of death of birds, particularly loons according to studies in 2017, leading to regulation of lead sinkers in many states, including Massachusetts. Del Federica has heard about dogs getting snagged by rogue hooks and requiring surgery for removal.)
According to the Boat U.S. Foundation, fishing lines can take more than six centuries to biodegrade in water. Monofilament lines (and line spools) can be recycled through specialty recycling programs. They should not be put in the blue town barrel collection.
Liz Antanavica, Bedford’s Trash & Recycling Administrator, isn’t aware of any fishing line recycling in the immediate area. Anglers can find collection receptacles at popular fishing sites, especially marinas and piers, as well as fishing and tackle retail outlets – typically a large PVC tube for outside waterside collections and a collection box for retail indoor collections.
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) hosts receptacles in select state-run areas including around the Quabbin Reservoir (Bedford’s water source). Volunteer and advocacy groups have collections at smaller sites around Massachusetts. Individuals can mail fishing lines to programs with companies such as Berkley Fishing for recycling.
If recycling is not an option, Antanavica suggests “the best answer is probably trash.”
Seasonally, the Fawn Lake parking area off Sweetwater Road as well as the Concord River boat ramp on Carlisle Road (another popular fishing site in town) have town-provided public space trash bins that are emptied and maintained by the Department of Public Works grounds crew. One suggestion is to clip fishing line disposed of in the trash into 6-to-12-inch lengths so land animals getting into or nesting around trash don’t become intertwined.
While not the mission of the Trails Committee to pick up or monitor litter, Michael Barbehenn, chair of the Trails Committee, notes that the trails in Bedford are largely litter-free thanks to users cleaning up after themselves and the public picking up after the few that do litter. That said, Barbehenn has also seen fishing line, hooks, lures, and empty worm containers around Fawn Lake.
Del Federico, Antanavica, and Barbehenn all agree that anglers who enjoy fishing around Fawn Lake (and the Concord River and Old Reservoir) in Bedford should adhere to the hiking and camping cardinal rule to “carry in–carry out,” to do what they can to protect wildlife and recreational users.