Outsiders don’t litter. It’s just a fact. Anyone with a fervent love for the great outdoors simply doesn’t have it in them. So why, then, are disposable masks littering our most beloved locales?
As the COVID-19 Pandemic continues, so does the public’s use of disposable masks. Yet the masses seem to think dropping them into our forests, streams, and surrounding ecosystems is acceptable. Spoiler alert: it isn’t. Far from it. In fact, it’s horribly ignorant.
One of the most poignant examples of this to surface in 2021 comes courtesy of Yellowstone-based wildlife photographer John Kuiper.
“Folks, please don’t leave your disposable masks (or any other trash) behind. It’s not hard to do better than this,” Kuiper says. His words serve as a caption to his stunning yet-startling footage below.
Within, we see a young grizzly bear cub walking behind her mother in Yellowstone National Park. The wean holds a disposable mask in his mouth, chewing on it naively. It might be a precious, precocious sight to some. But to an Outsider, it’s a clear threat to the little one’s life.
Swallowing the mask could kill the little cub. They’re dangerous choking hazards for large mammals, but especially for small fauna, too. Hundreds of images have surfaced online of the pollution caused by the pandemic over the last two years. The following May tweet from Marion Alice illustrates this in a painful way.
Disposable Face Masks are Killing Wildlife in Yellowstone and Beyond
Here, Alice shows a peregrine falcon‘s beak tangled in a disposable mask. The next image shows dozens of masks pulled from a single creek.
A seagull struggles with a disposable mask, alongside an American robin found with one tangled into its wing.
So what can we do to prevent this? It’s easy: dispose of all trash appropriately. Face masks are no different than other litter. If anyone is to use a disposable one, they should know to dispose of it in a proper trash receptacle afterward.
For decades, our National Parks and Forest Services have upheld the ‘Leave No Trace” campaign. It’s a simple way to remind any visiting the great outdoors to leave nothing behind that wasn’t already there. Anything of human creation that was not made by the wilds is trash.
Packing trash and placing it in wildlife-proof containers is just as important, too. If you’re in bear country like Yellowstone National Park, for example, all trash needs to be put inside a bear-proof bin to prevent rummaging.
Spread the word, Outsiders, and together we can help keep our beautiful wilds – wild.