THE RSPCA received its highest number of call-outs for animals trapped in litter across East and West Sussex last year out of anywhere else in England, outside London.

The animal welfare charity handled a total of 220 incidents involving animals and birds affected by litter across the county, with 133 calls in East Sussex and 87 in West Sussex.

The call-outs were among 3,874 incidents across England and Wales in 2020.

As well as everyday rubbish, the RSPCA also sees many animals arriving into its care with terrible injuries caused by angling litter such as discarded fishing line and hooks to plastic netting.

Nearly 40 per cent (1,510) of all litter-related calls to the RSPCA last year were about animals that had specifically become caught in fishing litter.

The Argus: Photo: RSPCAPhoto: RSPCA

Last month a grey seal pup was found "smothered" by fishing netting on Pett Level Beach in Hastings.

Staff from RSPCA Mallydams Woods Wildlife Centre managed to catch the pup.

Wildlife assistant Penny Taberer said: “The poor pup was covered by bright green, plastic netting - he was practically being smothered by it. It was over his head and wrapped around his neck and front flippers.

“Once we got him back to the centre and cut him free we could give him a proper health check.

"He was a healthy weight and didn’t have any serious injuries or wounds caused by the netting - he was very lucky.

"Sadly, we often see seals that have deep lacerations where netting has cut into their flesh and they can quickly become emaciated as they struggle to eat with the netting restricting their movement.”

The Argus: Photo: RSPCAPhoto: RSPCA

The RSPCA is calling on the public to get involved in its Great British Spring Clean campaign to remove litter that could endanger animals - as well as for anglers not to leave any fishing equipment behind them.

Adam Grogan, head of the charity's wildlife department, said: “Our staff deal with thousands of incidents every year where animals have been impacted by litter - and they’re the ones that we know of.

“I’m sure for every animal we’re able to help there are many that go unseen, unreported and may even lose their lives.

“Litter is one of the biggest hazards our wildlife faces today and the pandemic has just added to the problem with many disposable masks just being discarded on the ground.

The Argus: A fox found with its head trapped in a discarded plastic reel in Littlehampton last yearA fox found with its head trapped in a discarded plastic reel in Littlehampton last year

“These are a new danger to animals and we’ve been called out to rescue animals like ducks and gulls caught up in the masks’ elastic straps.

"The majority of anglers do dispose of their litter properly and it is frustrating that those who don’t possibly don’t realise how dangerous it is to animals.

"Discarded line in particular is a terrible hazard for wildlife, particularly as it can be almost invisible.

“We strongly urge those who enjoy fishing to be extra cautious to make sure nothing is left behind.

"It only takes one piece of snagged line to be left in a tree or dropped near the water to endanger the life of an animal.

“If members of the public see discarded litter we would encourage them to pick it up safely and put it in the bin, remembering to wash their hands after. Their action could save an animal’s life.”