Oh deer! Why these photos are not 'cute'

Photos of animals stuck in trash go viral, but one staffer at the National Wildlife Federation says these cases are not funny, and she's pleading with the public for change.

After an image of a deer with its head caught in a Doritos bag went viral earlier this month, Dani Tinker of the National Wildlife Federation decided she had seen enough. It seemed every few days a new story or video in the news showed an animal rendered helpless by a piece of litter.

So Tinker, the community manager for the nonprofit conservation organization, took to the National Wildlife Federation’s blog to pen a rebuke. Her message: Animals getting their heads stuck in trash aren't funny or adorable, and it’s our fault.

“A lot of these stories are like, 'Oh cute, there’s a bear with a jar stuck on his head,'” Tinker said. “They can’t eat. They can’t drink. They’re stuck at that point.

“It’s upsetting because these aren’t animals getting their head stuck in something from nature. It’s a Doritos bag or it’s a jar, it’s stuff that humans have left out, so that’s the part that frustrates me," she added.

Related: Photos: 13 animals who swear they didn't do it

In the case of the deer trapped by the Doritos bag, a deputy of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department found the animal while on patrol in the Florida Keys. The deputy approached the deer and was able to easily free the animal, sheriff's department spokeswoman Becky Herrin said.

“He found the deer in the middle of the roadway just turning around in circles with the bag on his head,” Herrin said. “The deer started to run away and then turned around and sniffed at him for a second, kind of like saying, ‘Thank you.’”

Though Herrin could not recall similar incidents that had occurred on land in the area, wildlife officials in the Florida Keys often have to deal with animals that become entangled with waste in the water, she said.

“We’re always treating animals that have ingested plastic or gotten caught,” Herrin said. “A turtle that’s swallowed a plastic bag, a fish that has fishing line wrapped around its fin, or a manatee that’s been injured somehow.”

Related: Video: Animals confused by human world

Photos of trapped animals are going viral: A whitetail deer got its head stuck in a clear plastic jar that prevented it from eating or drinking for several days, until a resourceful Duluth, Minn., area woman managed to pop the jar off.AP Photo: Janet L. Murphy

Other recent incidents include a Pennsylvania bear with its head stuck in a jar for at least 11 days and a Minnesota deer with a large plastic jar covering its head up to its ears, preventing the animal from eating or drinking for several days.

It took four people to liberate the 100-pound bear, which twice fell into a swimming pool while its rescuers struggled to set it free, according to the Press Enterprise of Bloomsburg, Pa. A woman was able to remove the jar from the Minnesota deer after she borrowed a 10-foot catchpole from a local wildlife-rehabilitation organization, the Duluth News Tribune reported.

Official numbers of cases of animals trapped in trash are not available, and while photos like the deer and the Doritos bag often go viral, Tinker says these incidences happen more frequently than is reported in the news.

"It's something that happens all the time, it's just not caught on camera," she said.

The way to prevent such incidents is to act responsibly when disposing of waste, Tinker said. Food jars should be disposed with their lids screwed on, and trash should be properly placed in secure containers.

“Not littering is the first thing," she said. "When disposing of recycling or trash, the main thing is making sure that they’re in one container and that it’s wildlife-proof."

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