​Going above and beyond for the birds’ safety

By Akiko Oda, akiko.oda@pse.com

(10/14/16) With a passion for safety, here’s something we can crow about: our Avian Protection Program team helped return a bald eagle back into the wild on Saturday after it recovered from a power line injury.

The adult male eagle, with a wingspan of about six feet, was found on June 4 after it came into contact with one of our power lines near the Green River in Auburn. According to Dr. Jan White, president of the South Sound Critter Care where the eagle was taken, the eagle had burns on the right wing.  

After several months of rehabilitation at three local facilities – South Sound Critter Care in Kent, West Sound Wildlife Shelter on Bainbridge Island, and Discovery Bay Wild Bird Rescue in Port Townsend – the bird grew feathers to replace the damaged feathers, and eventually regained the ability to fly vertically, which is important for eagles’ survival in the wild.

“This was a lucky eagle,” said Dr. White. “It’s not common for birds to come in contact with power lines and to live, let alone go through the process of rehabilitation and be released.”

On an average, we have about 10 eagle cases every year, according to Mel Walters, our Avian Protection Program manager. This year, there have been seven eagle-power line incidents.

“We have been working to reduce these incidents since our Avian Protection Program began 16 years ago,” said Mel. “Whenever we have an eagle injured from our power lines, we typically retrofit 10 to 15 nearby high-risk poles with bird guards (pictured right) and other equipment covers to prevent future incidents.”

The majority of the retrofits take place near agricultural land in Skagit, Whatcom, and Island counties where eagles perch on our poles because there are fewer trees.

“We retrofit hundreds of poles every year to reduce the risk of electrocution and collision to hawks, eagles, swans and even small birds,” Mel added.

With the local bald eagle population on the rise in the past 40 years, these improvements by our Avian Protection Program is a key to helping keep our community safe—including wildlife. 

KIRO 7 crews also joined us on Saturday. Watch their video here.

If you spot an injured eagle in our service area, contact a local wildlife rehabilitation clinic.