Old power poles electrocute eagles

  • Eagle on old power pole drawing: By Mike Ramos

  Last March, Clent Bailey found an electrocuted golden eagle beneath a power pole near Roswell, N.M. Bailey, who works as a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, then uncovered an electrocuted hawk under the eagle, a victim of the same "problem pole."

The experience launched Bailey's campaign to retrofit poles and strengthen regulations. Every year, narrowly spaced wires kill a large percentage of trumpeter swans and whooping cranes when they migrate through treeless areas, according to Wyoming Fish and Game's Wyoming Wildlife magazine. In addition, thousands of eagles and hawks receive fatal zaps each year when they perch on poles and touch two wires simultaneously.

Bailey says simple solutions like wooden perches and insulated wires could end the needless deaths. With public help, power companies can identify the poles and insulate wires, but he worries rural electrical cooperatives don't have the funds to spend up to $150 retrofitting each pole.

Instead, Bailey, who has distributed 100,000 pamphlets to increase public awareness of bird electrocutions, wants a federal fund established to begin fixing old poles. He also recently suggested stricter guidelines for new poles to New Mexico's Rural Electrical Association.

To report dead birds or suspicious poles, call the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 800/299-0196 or Clent Bailey at 505/883-7877. An updated book, Suggested Practices for Raptor Protection on Power Lines: The State of the Art in 1994, should be available this month from Raptor Research Foundation Inc., 12805 St. Croix Trail, Hastings, MN 55033.

* Katharine Bill