Rural Electric Company Takes Measures To Protect Birds From Electrocution
The Central New Mexico Power Cooperative has received an award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recognizing the proactive measures the Coop has taken to reduce bird electrocutions by power lines.
Geoff Haskett, Deputy Regional Director for the Services Southwest Region presented the award on Wednesday, Feb. 19 at a training conference sponsored by the New Mexico Avian Protection Working Group (NMAP).
The Service, which is responsible for the conservation of migratory birds, notified the Central New Mexico Power Cooperative about several power transformers which were electrocuting ravens near Willard.
The Coop promptly responded by de-energizing all the transformers not in use and insulating the hot ones. They are seeking out similar problems and making arrangements to protect more birds.
“We appreciate the Coop voluntarily taking steps to decrease bird electrocutions,” said Haskett. “They set the standard in New Mexico for what it means to be a true community leader.”
The New Mexico Avian Protection Working Group was formed a year ago to address bird mortalities resulting from electrocution or collisions with power lines and transformers. Their goal is to provide New Mexico utilities with the resources and information to voluntarily reduce bird deaths and comply with all aspects of migratory bird and endangered species laws.
Working group members include Public Service Company of New Mexico, the Rural Utilities Services, Hawks Aloft, the New Mexico Falconers Association, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, and the Service.
Birds are electrocuted when they land on a power pole and their body touches two energized wires or an energized wire and any equipment that is grounded, such as a transformer. Any bird electrocution can result in a power outage.
Power poles, transmission lines and other utility structures can be a threat to all birds but particularly large ones such as birds of prey that perch on the poles as they scan the landscape for food. Golden eagles are one species that hunt by moving from perch to perch.
Power line poles often offer the highest viewing site for birds hunting in meadows full of mice, voles and other good things to eat. The National Biological Survey reported 25 percent of golden eagle mortalities over a 30-year period were due to electrocution.
The Estancia Valley where Willard is located has been designated as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society because of its large concentration of birds of prey. The Valley serves as a migrating corridor for osprey and bald eagles. “The entire Estancia Valley contains the greatest known density of ferruginous hawks in New Mexico,” said Haskett. “It is also a prime wintering area for other raptors including red-tailed hawk, rough-legged hawk, prairie falcons and golden eagles.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses nearly 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.