With freedom comes responsibility. Celebrating Independence Day is part of being an American, but when it’s at the expense of our nation’s iconic wildlife, we at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ask you to think twice about the impacts your celebration may have on the species and habitat around you. Here are a few ways you can help mitigate harm to wildlife and their habitat while you celebrate the Fourth of July.
Consider the impact of fireworks on wildlife
As we enjoy the bright colors and thunderous explosions, it's easy to overlook the impact to wildlife around us. We know what to expect, but wildlife don’t. The abrupt lights and sounds are often seen as a threat by nesting bald eagles and easily startle great blue herons and other colonial nesting birds.
The shock of fireworks can cause wildlife to flee, ending up in unexpected areas or roadways, flying into buildings and other obstacles, and even abandoning nests, leaving young vulnerable to predators. The threat to wildlife doesn’t stop at startling lights and sounds; fireworks also have the potential of starting wildfires, directly affecting wildlife and destroying essential habitat. Litter from firecrackers, bottle rockets and other explosives can be choking hazards for wildlife and may be toxic if ingested.
Follow laws and use caution
Laws require professional fireworks shows to be at least three-quarters of a mile from protected habitat. As you celebrate, we ask that you keep wildlife in mind and choose shows that keep a respectable distance from wildlife habitat. If you plan to set off your own fireworks, use caution, stay away from wildlife habitat, avoid dry areas and make sure you pick up any resulting debris. Keep in mind that consumer fireworks are banned in all national wildlife refuges, national forests and national parks.
Ensure barbecues and campfires are completely out
As we gather around barbecues and campfires, it’s important to keep fire safety in mind. When you’re finished barbecuing, put the lid on tight and close all of the vents. For campfires, pour water on all of the embers - not just the red ones. Keep adding water until the hissing sound stops, then stir the ashes and embers with a rake or shovel. If you don’t have water, dirt or sand can take its place, but don’t bury the fire as it will continue to smolder. Remember, if it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave!
Properly dispose of trash and fishing gear
Now is the perfect time to get outdoors and enjoy nature. Fishing, boating, swimming and picnicking are popular summer activities. Anglers can reduce the injuries or deaths to wildlife simply by properly discarding fishing line and hooks. Retrieve broken lines, lures and hooks and deposit them in trash containers or take them with you. We can all contribute to a safer environment for people and wildlife by properly disposing of our trash and helping to pick up after others when trash is found.
Stay safe this Fourth of July. Thanks for keeping wildlife in mind as you celebrate and enjoy the outdoors.