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Master Naturalists: Wildlife and baling twine don't mix

By Paul and Mary Meredith
May 8, 2014 at 12:08 a.m.

A large white-tailed  buck spotted near Seguin sports a mass of bailing twine snarled in its antlers. While it may look cute, it can lead to lingering death from starvation if it gets tangled in brush the buck cannot escape from. Fortunately, in this case, that didn't happen; the landowners found the same rack of antlers after they dropped off, still fouled with the twine. They are now on the owner's mantle.

Coastal fishermen know we encourage them to bring snarled lines, fishing rigs and old cast nets - among others - ashore for proper disposal in a recycling container in which they dock.

They are a real threat to waterfowl, fish and sea turtles if they are tossed overboard. Until a couple of weeks ago, we never really considered the terrestrial implications of waste line as a hazard. Our guest writer, master naturalist Barbara Jones, has a message for the farm and ranch community about threats to wildlife from twine and mesh wrap from hay bale rolls. Her story has a happy ending this time, but it illustrates a serious wildlife management problem for property owners.

Here is her story:

"A white-tail buck was seen early in March 2014 in the hills outside Seguin on land owned by Lynda and Bill Buck and Darren and Laurie Yates. Linda and Bill first saw the buck in the pasture near the front entrance to their property late in the afternoon, about 5 p.m. They were puzzled by what the buck had on his antlers. It looked like a 1960s beehive hairdo. They saw the buck several times the next few days and got a couple of good pictures.

On April 1, Darren and Laurie were outside doing yard work and found the buck's shed antlers. Darren bales hay and knew exactly what they had seen: It was hay-baling twine fouling the buck's antlers.

This buck managed to shed the antlers without becoming further entangled in the twine. Other animals have not been so lucky.

I hope that those of us who feed baled hay to stock will remember to be very careful in disposing twine cut from bales. When placing big bales in pens or pastures, be sure to cut and pull all twine and put it in trash containers, or better yet, recycle it.

It is a big problem countrywide.

Barbara is absolutely correct. A single 5-by-5 roll of hay has about 235 feet of twine when the bale is wrapped every 4 inches, double that much when wrapped at 2 inches. Two inches is not uncommon for alfalfa hay. That amounts to a lot of slow-degrading material if the baler is using polypropylene twine, as many do.

Left unrecovered, polypropylene twine can entrap and ensnare unwary animals. Barbara has observed local goats with legs wrapped in baling twine.

Pulled tight, it cuts off circulation, leading to gangrene and death.

Birds, especially raptors, will pick up the baling twine for their large nests, creating unintended snares for legs and wings of mates and fledglings. It is a major problem for ospreys in their summer nesting grounds, according to the Raptor View Research Institute twine program in Missoula, Mont.

What to do

Barbara's moral is cut twine off bales, pick it up and safely dispose of it. Don't be surprised, however, if crafter friends ask for it. It's a useful raw material for several craft projects.


Paul and Mary Meredith are master naturalists. Contact them at



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