Researchers from EDM International have investigated the risk of golden eagle electrocution by power poles, as well as mitigation strategies. As a result of their analysis, the team is proposing new techniques that could be used to target high-risk poles regionally and prevent the eagles from being harmed.
Approximately 504 eagles are electrocuted every year in North America, despite efforts to upgrade power poles to avian-friendly standards. The researchers took a closer look at these efforts, particularly those strategies documented from 1940 to 2016, and developed a technique which they believe could substantially reduce eagle mortalities.
The study authors have highlighted eight electrocution risk factors. They found that pole configuration was the most frequent risk factor, while age was the second most frequently identified issue.
Risk was also associated with large body size, high-quality habitat, high prey density, winter dispersal, inclement weather, and intraspecific interactions. The researchers pointed out that risk modeling based on these factors could help managers identify the poles that most urgently needed to be modified.
The study also revealed that juvenile eagles were electrocuted at around twice the rate of subadults or adults.
Elizabeth Mojica is a wildlife biologist with EDM International in Fort Collins, Colorado, and the lead author of the study. Mojica conducts research that is focused on understanding and preventing avian electrocution and collisions with infrastructure.
“Electrocution of eagles is preventable with careful retrofitting of existing poles and use of avian-friendly construction design on new poles located in eagle habitat,” said Mojica.
The study authors suggest that some type of mitigation funding provided to the utility companies may motivate them to complete the needed modifications.
The study is published in the Journal of Wildlife Management.
Image Credit: EDM International