A Delta-based raptor rehabilitation centre has seen a shocking surge in bald eagles and other birds of prey being zapped by power lines or transformers this year.
The O.W.L. Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society has treated 47 cases so far this year of raptors that have been electrocuted, about 10 more than in 2015.
“Every year the number of eagles being electrocuted is going up in the local area,” said bird care supervisor Rob Hope. “There aren’t a lot of trees for them to perch on so they’ve turned to power poles for perching. When they’re on the power lines there’s a risk of them touching both lines, and then it’s usually game over.”
Nearly all zapped raptors that have arrived this year have had to be put down because the powerful birds failed to regain enough wing power to fly.
But two are still in care and the latest arrival is a repeat case that was first rescued dangling from a power pole in January, 2015. (See video below)
Dubbed “Flash” by his BC Hydro rescuers, the eagle was rehabilitated and released back into the wild last April.
This time the prognosis isn’t as good.
“We could smell the burning feathers and flesh,” Hope said of the bird’s second trip into the rehab centre.
“With electricity, of course, it basically cooks the muscles and tendons and everything. We’ve been trying to basically keep blood flowing to the animal and treating him with topical antibiotics to prevent infection.”
Despite volunteers’ best efforts, the eagle’s outlook is grim.
“Chances are he will not be released back to the wild.”
Hope said he would like BC Hydro to erect raptor perches on the tops of more power poles in problem areas.
The perches give birds of prey a place to land that’s a few feet higher than the power lines, reducing the risk.
Spokesperson Mora Scott said BC Hydro has installed many such perches in the Delta area and continues to work closely with O.W.L. to identify risky locations and add more.
She said electrocuted eagles have been a problem at other areas of the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island as well.
Other steps Hydro sometimes takes in high-risk locations include installing “diverters” that are essentially reflectors to help raptors spot and avoid power lines.
Example of an elevated perch BC Hydro sometimes installs to make power poles safer for raptors.