MORE than 50 animals trapped in litter were rescued across Warwickshire and the West Midlands since the start of lockdown.
Since the start of March RSPCA inspectors were called to help 11 animals caught in litter in Warwickshire and 40 across the West Midlands.
The charity said dumped face masks have become a hazard and has received reports of animals tangled in the straps of single-use masks.
Incidents include a gull found with a mask wrapped tightly around his legs. The bird is doing well after receiving treatment.
Chief executive Chris Sherwood is urging people to cut the straps off face masks before binning them in a bid to protect wildlife.
He said: “For many years the public have been aware of the message to cut up plastic six-pack rings before throwing them away to stop animals getting tangled in them, and now we are keen to get out the message that the same should be done for face masks too – as very sadly, animals are susceptible to getting tangled up in them.
“Now face masks are the norm, and may be for some time to come, this message is more important than ever as thousands of these masks are being thrown away every day. We’re concerned discarded face masks could become a significant hazard, particularly to wild animals and birds.
“Our officers have had to rescue animals from getting tangled in face masks and we expect that this may go up as time goes on, so the best thing to do is to simply cut the elastic ear straps in half before throwing it away.”
The charity says most cases of litter affecting animals are preventable if rubbish is disposed of properly and responsibly.
Visit www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/litter for more advice.