When you think of major life events and celebrations, you might think you need balloons, right? What you might not realize is that helium balloons released to the sky cause thousands of wild animals and birds to suffer and die needlessly. When helium balloons are released at a gender reveal party, at a memorial service, or when they are accidentally released, they often end up tangled in trees or brush. When animals then come in contact with the balloons and their strings, they either swallow and choke on the balloon or become tangled in the string. This results in the animal or bird suffering an injury or becoming trapped and unable to survive.
In her 38 years of helping injured wildlife, Virginia wildlife rehabilitator Madeline Libre has seen numerous birds harmed by people who don’t realize the results of their celebratory or careless actions. In one instance, Libre was called to aid a crow tangled in a balloon string and dangling by its leg from a tree. Thanks to the dedicated local fire department who came to the rescue and were able to bring the crow down from the tree, Libre was able to set the crow’s broken leg and eventually release it back into the wild. To end the suffering of innocent wildlife, people must start making more environmentally conscious choices. It can be as simple as pausing to think before releasing a balloon to the sky or throwing gum or a cigarette butt out of the car window. Yes, animals and birds end up suffering and dying from swallowing litter as well.
Another damaging practice is the release of doves at events. Libre says “it’s the most horrible thing to do,” as it very often leads to these beautiful birds suffering and dying a slow death. The organizations that are hired to release homing doves count on them to return, but not every one of them comes back. White birds have no camouflage to protect them, so they are consequently, snatched by birds of prey that easily spot them. These doves have been born and raised in captivity and do not have the necessary survival skills to be in the wild. For many of these birds, being released at an event is their first time in the wild. They are disoriented and lost, they contract diseases and, if not eaten by a predator, they often die from starvation or dehydration.
Please help spread the word about the dangers of balloons and dove releases during celebrations and memorials. The best way to celebrate a life event is to keep balloons inside and make a donation to an animal rescue rather than putting animals in harm’s way.
If you witness a bird or animal in trouble, reach out to the Wildlife Rescue League helpline: 703-440-0800 or call a local wildlife center for help. One person can make a difference!
Written by Nevie Billis
Nevie Billis is a high school junior from Loudoun County Virginia. She has a passion for wildlife, writing, and reading books. She plans to study wildlife conservation and journalism in college. Nevie is a writer and editor for her high school newspaper and enjoys being part of her school’s crew team. Nevie is inspired by the mission of Wildlife Rescue League and excited to help protect wildlife in her community and beyond.