A spokesman for Alliant Energy says the company is taking steps to protect eagles and other birds after it was learned one of the Decorah eaglets was electrocuted on a company pole in Keokuk County.
Alliant’s spokesman Justin Foss says they have taken steps in areas where the eagles generally nest to protect them from the electricity, but he says this situation was different.
“This last eaglet that died really was kind of a learning piece for us and for a lot of other agencies across the state,” Foss says. “It happened in real rural Keokuk County amid vast farm fields — not your typical eagle habitat. There’s not rivers, not a whole lot of trees in the area, not a whole lot of the stereotypical environment that you see these eagles in.”
Foss says the eagles are drawn to more rural settings by animal feeding operations where they might find food from the dead animals that are discarded. “Here you have this resurgence of eagles in a very unexpected place, and so now we are going in that area to change out some of the equipment there. And we are going to use that to understand other places across the state where we haven’t typically seen eagles in the past and either expect to see them or are starting to see them more, so we can kind of keep in track with this,” Foss says.
The electricity in the power lines runs along looking for a place to get to the ground. Foss says most of the time it’s not an issue. “When they are just touching one line the electricity doesn’t have a place to go to ground and it just keeps going straight through,” Foss explains. “That’s how the birds are able to be up there and be safe. You see the squirrels running across the power lines, because they are just touching one line.” When the animals create a pathway to the ground, that’s when problems happen.
“Maybe a bird will sit on the cross arm and he’ll spread out both wings and he will touch two power lines at the same time. That will cause and arch — a big flash of electricity — and that can be potentially deadly,” Foss says. “Or if the squirrel or the bird is standing on the cross arm — that wood piece that goes horizontal — and reaches up onto the power line, if they make contact in both place, you are touching the piece that goes to the ground and you are touching the electricity.”
He says they try to prevent that by covering pieces of equipment or moving around some of the pieces on the poles. Or they can install “anti-perching devices.” “And what that does it kind of keeps the birds away and does not give them a really good place to perch or land up there, and they are not making any contact at all,” Foss says. He says it costs around $200 to put on the anti-perching devices. Foss says they can’t prevent every animal from making contact with a power line.
He says if you see an animal that has been shocked, call the DNR or the power company and do not touch it or try to move it. He says it’s actually illegal to transport birds without a special permit and Alliant Energy calls the DNR to help transport such animals. Foss says they will continue working to try and make their poles safer for the animals.