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Looking out for wildlife

NL Scout Dominick Shover takes on a crusade against discarded fishing line
Jeff and Deb Schense help Dominick Shover (middle) with attaching a piece of PVC pipe to a signpost in order to make a receptacle for used fishing line Saturday, Sept. 28, in the parking lot behind the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in North Liberty. (photo by Chris Umscheid)

NORTH LIBERTY– According to Dr. Ellen K. Rudolph on her blog Portfolio (www.drellenrudolph.com), “Monofilament fishing line is by far the most dangerous kind of debris encountered by wildlife.” Fishing line (often cut and left in place after getting snagged and tangled in shoreline trees, shrubs or underwater debris) often entangles and kills birds, fish, turtles, frogs and other small mammals, sometimes even injuring or killing pets. Hooks attached to the line can injure or kill as well, especially if the animal swallows it. A long, painful death can result from a hook embedded in the tongue, Dr. Rudolph noted, leading to suffering and starvation. Birds are often found with fishing line tangled around their legs, wings and beaks, she added. “Many have been found hanging upside down in trees, exhausted after hours of struggling to extricate themselves.”
Francis Skalicky, media specialist for the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Southwest Region, writing for the Springfield News-Leader, pointed out “Discarded fishing line has long been a problem for animals that frequent areas where humans like to fish. Humans who discard fishing line provide the landscape with a lethal device that keeps on killing– studies have shown monofilament line can take up to 600 years to break down in the environment.”
Dominick Shover is acutely aware of the problem. A senior at Liberty High School and member of Scout Troop 216, Shover is working toward his Eagle Scout. Part of the process of earning the recognition and honor of being an Eagle Scout is planning and executing a community service project. Shover’s project is designing, building and installing receptacles for discarded fishing line at various ponds in North Liberty.
“Dominick is very conservation-minded,” said Patti Romano, his mother. “We’re hoping the residents of North Liberty better understand why these are important.”
Receptacles have been in place out at the Coralville Reservoir for years, Shover said, but “they’re all chained up and they don’t look good. I’ve fished at Liberty Pond since I was 4, and I always see fish line and things tangled up in fish line dead, and I was getting tired of it, so I decided to make these so people will put it away.”
While scouting out ideal locations for 15 receptacles, Shover himself was ensnared by line, he said. “I was tripping over fishing line, I almost fell in once.” He placed small white flags, which quickly drew questions from residents near the ponds, and even some complaints. North Liberty Parks Director Guy Goldsmith found himself on the receiving end.
“People called in wondering what they were going to look like, and Guy wanted to arrange a meeting so we could talk to them about it, and what it’s going to look like, but they refused to meet with us,” Shover said.
Fifteen became five with two for West Lakes, one for Broadmoor, one for Goose Lake, and one at the Freedom Park pond. Shover noted he had Goldsmith’s full blessings for the project after multiple meetings with him. Goldsmith also provided signposts for Shover to use to mount his receptacles.
Shover and a cadre of fellow Scouts backed up by several adult volunteers assembled the units on Saturday, Sept. 28, in assembly line fashion in the parking lot behind Trinity Lutheran Church in North Liberty. PVC pipe (donated by Daniel Huffman, owner of Heavy Excavating in Mechanicsville) was cut with a 90-degree elbow attached on one end, and a threaded cap on the other. Holes were drilled to bolt the unit to precut signposts, and special signs fabricated by inmates working for Iowa Prison Industries were attached to complete the receptacles, which were installed later in the afternoon.