Solution Sought for North Dakota Power Line Bird Strikes

Wildlife News
Solution sought for N.D. power line bird strikes
By JAMES MacPHERSON, Associated Press Writer
Mon Sep 22, 5:27 AM ET

COLEHARBOR, N.D. - Death comes from above and below for birds on the causeway that separates Lake Audubon from Lake Sakakawea along the Missouri River.

Biologists believe overhead electrical power lines and car collisions make the two-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 83 through the Audubon National Wildlife Refuge one of the world's deadliest places for birds, on land or air.

Recently, biologist Darren Doderer located casualty No. 373, a mangled and bloodied double-crested cormorant that appeared to have hit one of the dozen or so unmarked overhead power lines.

"It's not fun to see these deaths," said Doderer, who estimated he's walked about 500 miles in the area searching for dead birds since April.

Bird-vehicle crashes have not been addressed but a $1 million federal study, funded in part by utilities, is evaluating three types of "diverters" designed to make the power lines visible to birds, or scare them off a crash course.

One of the devices is shaped like a corkscrew and wraps around about 2 feet of the power line. Another diverter resembles a perforated neon pie plate with a reflective center. The third is about the size of an envelope, with reflectors attached and flaps in the wind.

The diverters cost between $8 and $40, and last from a year to two decades. Burying the power lines is considered a fix that's too expensive.

The three-year project by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Western Area Power Administration concludes next month and biologists say it appears the various diverters have cut the number of birds strikes.

"What we're hoping to show is that no matter what you put on the line, it will be better than nothing," said Misti Schriner, a Denver-based biologist with Western Area Power Administration, which owns the power lines.

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