A spate of recent deaths of the once-endangered and iconic animal of the United States has sent an alarming shock to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). At least seven bald eagles have died in East Texas over the past year because of collisions with power lines.
The FWS does not collect data anymore on the bird’s population because of the financial cost, according to Brent Ortego, a Texas state biologist. Ortego and other biologists believe the population has continued to grow at a rate of 10 percent per year since the time the animal was de-listed in 2007.
But now, FWS agents are worrying that eagles may face an additional threat from electrocutions or collisions with power lines and poles in six Texas counties, and that’s just counting the birds they’ve been able to find. Ortego believes the death rate to be higher.
Bald eagles are such large birds that their wingspan reaches six to eight feet, which creates the problem of electricity transmission when their wings touch the wires between power line poles. Some electrical companies in Houston have provided a plan for preventing electrocutions to federal authorities in response. CenterPoint Energy Inc.’s strategies include installing “raptor guards” which are meant to prevent the eagle from roosting on wires and poles.
Authorities have the ability seek criminal prosecution for bird deaths under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection and the Migratory Bird Treaty, but for the time being it looks like charges against power companies are not being pursued.
Photo: Ken Schneider (kenschneiderusa, flickr)