Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Where Did That Rubber Band Come From?
Midwest Region, July 15, 2007
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Who would ever expect to capture a fish with a rubber band around it?  Well it happens more often than one would expect.   


Sturgeon throughout the Midwest are commonly captured entangled with rubber bands or other man-made debris. Biologists have even been asked if they are marking sturgeon with rubber bands. This is not the case! 


One pallid sturgeon in Montana was found with a large irrigation pipe O-ring around it. Numerous instances of rubber bands and jar seals in the lower Missouri River and Mississippi River have been recorded.  There are rumors of a canning jar manufacturing plant in Iowa dumping debris in the river which included the red rubber seal rings that were used on the old style bail top glass lids.  Although this style of canning lid has not been popular for years, these seals are still found on fish. 


When sturgeon become entangled with this type of debris, the continuous irritation creates large sores that encircle the entire fish.  Many times these sores are quite deep and will likely kill the fish if not removed. 


Historically, rivers were used as a dump; all kinds of residential and industrial garbage was disposed of in the river. Take a short walk on any river bank, and you will find an amazing variety of debris, including some like glass soft drink bottles that have not been in production for decades.  Several non profit organizations conduct river clean ups and education (see related story Columbia NFWCO helps clean-up the Big Muddy in St. Charles).


Next time you throw away something as simple as a rubber band, consider where it might end up and what damage it may inflict on wildlife.     

Contact Info: Andrew Starostka, 5732342132 x119, andy_starostka@fws.gov
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