Where can you start? Somewhere in your community there is probably a watery spot that desperately needs your help in a cleanup campaign. In Ontario in the summer of 1987, students cleaning up urban waterways removed 751,871 kg of debris—including four stolen vehicles and a tire that weighed almost 500 kg!
When you find a stream, pond, or marshy spot that looks a bit bedraggled, first ask permission of the landowner to carry out your plan. Before you begin, inform a fisheries manager at the government department responsible for natural resources in your province or territory. Ask him or her to visit the site with you. You want to be sure you won't be disturbing fish spawning beds or other sensitive areas.
Use garbage bags to collect ugly litter that can be fatal for wildlife. Plastic and metal objects, cigarette butts, and Styrofoam debris can suffocate and strangle animals. Broken bottles and open cans can cut tongues or trap small creatures.
While you work, be extra careful to disturb as little as possible. Remember, you are probably stomping around in some small animal's living room! Walk cautiously along stream-banks so you won't disrupt grasses and shrubs. They shade the stream, stop the banks from eroding, attract bugs, and provide shelter for wildlife.
Never remove any trees, stumps, logs, branches, or rocks without advice from natural resources experts. Fish and other watery creatures use these objects as hiding places.
Sometimes, too many fallen branches clog the stream's flow and make life tough for turtles or fish. Then it may be helpful to clear some of the debris away—but do it only with advice from the experts.
While you're working, wear old clothes, sturdy footwear, and work gloves.
CAUTION: Never visit a wetland without a supervising adult.
Late summer and fall are the best times for your cleanup campaign. That way you won't frighten nesting birds and baby animals.
Of course, you never pick plants or berries or handle bird's eggs or young wildlife. Patrol your watery spot regularly and keep it clean for wildlife.
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