Waste threatens wildlife as litterpick heroes battle on

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Tangled garden netting in a stag’s antlers, piles of anglers’ debris polluting a loch shore and more than 80 bags of rubbish picked from Oban woodland are among a heart breaking haul of images caught on camera this Easter.

Ecologist Barbara MacFarlane was working on a site near Bonawe when she made eye-to-eye contact with a stag who had a mass of green netting snagged in his antlers.

Garden netting tangled in a stag’s antlers near Bonawe.  Photograph: Barbara MacFarlane
Oban Spring Clean volunteers at Soroba Photograph: Zivile Matijaskiene
Some of the litter collected from the shore of Loch Etive Photograph: Barbara MacFarlane
Volunteers cleared 85 bags of rubbish from Soroba woodlands. Photograph: Zivile Matijaskiene

Although the netting, she found another clump of it nearby, could have blown out of a garden rather than have been deliberately dumped, she also found  heaps of other rubbish left along the shore of Loch Etive that included fishing line, fish hooks and drinks cans that could have fatal consequences for smaller wildlife.

Ms MacFarlane, who filled bags with the rubbish to take away, said it was too dangerous for her to try and de-snag the stag because of his size and strength and when she reported it to the SPCA, officials told her there was nothing they could do either.

Although the netting was not stopping him from grazing, the fear is that it could still get snagged on something and trap him and that it could start digging into his mouth and neck.

‘The chances are the netting has blown from a garden and it wasn’t deliberate but there was no excuse for the other litter I found. Smaller animals like otters wouldn’t have a chance if they got caught up in it. The litter on the shore is horrific,’ said Ms MacFarlane who has since been told by people living nearby that the stag has had the netting for a year  and they believe it is slowly loosening.

Rubbish, some dating back  ten years, was picked from Soroba woodlands by volunteers as part of Oban Spring Clean 2021 at the weekend.

A group of helpers cleared about 85 bags of rubbish from the woods.

One of the volunteers was Zivile Matijaskiene with her daughter, her bosses at respite charity Crossroads North Argyll gave her time off to join in the litter pick.

‘After gathering so much litter in only two and a bit hours I felt exhausted, hot, dirty and sore, feelings that haven’t left me are – pride and disgust. I was proud that more and more people, including myself, are joining in to help make and keep Oban beautiful but I was disgusted that so many people still don’t care,’ she told The Oban Times

Maurice Wilkins from Keep Oban Beautiful (KOB) said volunteers are doing a fantastic job and has appealed for them not to stop.

He is also urging people to ‘have a word’ with culprits and do what they can to halt the litter bugs.

‘If there is something you can do to stop people from littering, please speak to them about it, tell them not to leave their litter for someone else to clean up after them. Together we can make a big difference,’ he said.

An impromptu clean-up at Ganavan on Saturday saw bags full of empties that had been left at the top of the cliffs collected and disposed off properly in bins at the main car park.

Although KOB’s official spring clean weekend was between March 27 and March 28, there was so much rubbish still to clear that it rolled into April.

Facebook comments full of praise for volunteer litter pickers said they should all get ‘hero status’, Alison Chadwick from Friends of Ganavan said: ‘Thanks a million to all. What a difference is being made.’

Other spring cleans that have been carried include between the hydro above Oban and the curling pond, near Tesco, out at Benderloch, the Connel Bridge area and between Dunbeg and Ganavan with people posting their photos on Keep Oban Beautiful’s website.

Next week KOB will be announcing the winners of its Oban Spring Clean 2021 photo competition.

Meanwhile, the source of a diesel spill that polluted Oban Bay on Saturday March 27 leaving part of it ‘pink and stinky’ is still being investigated, says The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).