2:29 PM EDT, April 29, 2012
PRINCE'S LAKES, Ind. (AP) — A national effort to keep eagles and other birds of prey off electrical lines could lead to safer perches for the raptors and a more diverse ecosystem in Indiana.
The South Central Indiana REMC has launched a raptor protection project that involves erecting towers to serve as nesting spots for the birds.
Birds of prey prefer nests high off the ground and need high vantage points for hunting. That makes utility poles a popular, but dangerous, spot for their nests, and many birds wind up being electrocuted, the Daily Journal reports (http://bit.ly/JKJSNt).
"If we can entice a raptor to nest away from our power lines, give them an area to nest safely, it lessens that risk," said Randy Brumfield, assistant vegetation manager for the electrical cooperative.
Three towers as high as 65 feet have been erected to encourage the birds to nest around the lakes, and boxes mounted on trees and poles to house bluebirds and owls will help attract a more diverse ecosystem, program organizers say.
"There's a lot of nature in this community and a lot of habitat for nature, so we want to encourage eagles and hawks to the area. We're trying to attract them here," said Al Taylor, ecology manager for the Cordry Sweetwater Lot Owners Association.
Taylor, who serves on the electrical cooperative's board, said the lakes offer abundant hunting grounds and forests that make ideal habitats.
REMC organizers consulted with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to determine where to place the towers and how to make them safe for the birds.
Platforms for red-tail hawks have been set up around Sweetwater Lake, and towers have been placed along the shores of Cordry Lake. Six boxes for barn and barred owls, three for American kestrels and 17 for bluebirds have been mounted around the lakes.
"Eagles are big fishermen. They have the lake over here to fish, some grasslands down here to hunt rodents, and basically it's a good location with both," Brumfield said.
Workers created a platform from recycled utility pole parts and bolts and placed it on top of a pole, adding branches and limbs as a kind of starter kit for a nest.
"They just keep adding on and adding on to what we've put up there. The largest one we've found is about 26 feet across and estimated to weigh 1,800 pounds," said Merit Barnett with REMC's vegetation management department.
The raptor protection program is an extension of the Energy for Wildlife initiative, which aims to protect wildlife on land that is used for running power lines.
Brumfield said it could be a year or more before large raptors start nesting. But community leaders are already planning ways to draw the public's attention. Ideas so far include creating a trail that links the platforms so area birdwatchers can hike from location to location and placing a map of the sites on file in the local library.
"We're already having sightings of bluebirds, and eagles have been spotted in the area. Hopefully, we can attract them to live and stay here," Taylor said.
Information from: Daily Journal, http://www.thejournalnet.com